Title: Alex (Goodreads)
Author: Pierre Lemaitre
Translator: Frank Wynne
Series: Verhoeven Trilogy #2
Published: MacLehose Press, 2011
My Copy: Personal Copy
Buy: Amazon, Book Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)
When someone is kidnapped, the first few hours are critical; the chances of finding the victim alive drastically decrease after that. The beautiful and tough Alex Prévost is no ordinary victim but can she escape? Her time is running out. Commandant Camille Verhoeven has nothing to go on, no suspects, no leads and no hope. All they know is the girl was snatched off the streets of Paris and shoved into a van. The mystery of the fate of Alex will keep Verhoeven guessing until the bitter end.
This is the second book in the Verhoeven trilogy but the only one that has been translated into English so far. While it is very much a standalone novel, I got a feeling that some critical information about Commandant Camille Verhoeven was missing in the development of this character. This could be the simple fact that this is the standard and over done thriller formula. I picked up this book because I’ve heard it being compared to Gone Girl a few times and thought it was a good excuse to read some translated crime.
Alex does have an unreliable victim, like Gone Girl but comparing this book to that one is a big stretch. The whole style and feel to Alex was nothing like the psychological thriller that is Gone Girl. This novel does try to be psychological but comparing the two is pointless, this novel takes a whole different route and the only real similarities are the genre and the unreliable victim. I tend to think marketing people look for connections between books as a way to promote books and this can be destructive.
Alex is a thriller told from a third person narrative that follows both the victim, Alex and Commandant Camille Verhoeven as he tries to piece together this enigma of a case. While this tends to work well in exploring the two sides of this case as victim and investigator, I sometimes wished I could get into the mindset of both characters. Without spoiling any of this novel, there are parts of the book that could have been interesting to explore the psychology of the characters. I think Alex was a complex character that could have been used better within the book to improve both plot and the overall novel.
Now, there are so many plot holes within this novel that really got to me, from the very first few chapters I got that feeling everyone was attractive, despite their age. It seems like Pierre Lemaitre knew of no other way to describe someone. I don’t want to spoil anything for people that want to read this book so I won’t mention the biggest plot hole I found (if you have read this book I’d love to discuss it with you). There is also a lot of repetitiveness within this novel, I don’t know how many times Lamaitre can mention she wasn’t average and when she was a teen Alex blossomed into a bombshell with large breasts but it was too many. Then you mix the generic thriller formula to the mix and you are left with a novel that could have done great things but took the safe road.
I think the unreliable victim narrative could have been executed a whole lot better and we could have had a decent novel with twists and turns. I’m a little disappointed that the author decided to play it safe and go with the cliché plot that is known to sell books. Books like Gone Girl that take risks and surprise the reader are the ones that are remembered and respected by readers. Sure sometimes we want something that we know will be enjoyable and doesn’t require much effort for a cosy winter (or summer read) but when you set up a book like Pierre Lemaitre did in Alex and chose not to take full advantage of the situation I feel let down and disappointed.