Synopses & Reviews
In this gripping, fiendishly plotted detective novel, Alex Prévost is kidnapped, savagely beaten, and suspended from the ceiling of an abandoned industrial building in a wooden cage — she is running out of time. Her abductor/torturer appears to desire only one thing: to watch her die. Will hunger, thirst, or the rats get her first?
One witness has filed a report with the police, but apart from this insubstantial bit of evidence Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven has nothing to go on: no suspect, no other leads. To understand what has happened to Alex, the detective — a man with a tragic past but extraordinary abilities as an investigator — must first understand more about the girl whose life he is trying to save. As he slowly uncovers the story of the girl’s unusual childhood, he comes to realize she is no ordinary victim. She is beautiful, yes, but also extremely tough and resourceful — and unconventional in the extreme.
As the manhunt is drawing to its conclusion, the case shifts in the most shocking way. Before long, saving Alex’s life will be the least of Commandant Verhoeven’s considerable challenges.
"At the outset of French author Lemaitre's impressive American debut, the first in a trilogy, attractive 30-year-old Alex Prévost is shopping for wigs in a Paris shop when she spots a man waiting on the street who's clearly been following her. Perhaps he's just an admirer who wants to meet her, she thinks. That night, after dining alone at a restaurant, Alex is accosted on the sidewalk by a man who, after discarding the wig he initially grabbed and seizing her by her real hair, throws her into a white van. Soon Alex finds herself trapped inside a wooden crate suspended from the ceiling of an abandoned warehouse. Meanwhile, Commandant Camille Verhoeven throws himself into the kidnapping investigation as a way to deal with his grief over his wife's death, but he and his detectives have few clues to aid them in identifying Alex's abductor. An irritant to his superiors but respected by his subordinates, Verhoeven uses his diminutive stature to unsettle witnesses and suspects while surprising them with his intelligence and wit. Some unexpected plot twists will keep readers turning the pages. 150,000-copy first printing. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Before you can say Gone Girl, he discovers the crime is far from random and Alex anything but an ordinary victim. This gritty page-turner, Alex, is the first in a promised trilogy.Plus, s'il vous plaît." Entertainment Weekly
"An eloquent thriller with a denouement that raises eyebrows as it speeds the pulse." Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“Fascinating...filled with many twists and turns of plot along with a huge surprise.” Booklist
“Will keep you turning pages until well past your bedtime — with all the lights on, of course.” Library Journal
“What begins as a search for a missing person soon becomes a beguiling series of investigations linked only by Alex, a Parisian version of Lisbeth Salander. Camille, volatile, brilliant and just under 5ft, is an equally riveting figure.” The Sunday Times
“A weaver of dark and disturbing crime fiction....Lemaître brings his stinging, bitter story to a genuinely unexpected conclusion. We are not in the comfortable world of Inspector Maigret here — this is harsh, fierce crime writing with a Gauloise tinge. It would not be out of place filmed in black-and-white by the late, lamented Francois Truffaut, who loved crime tales like this." The Daily Mail
Upon winning the prestigious 2013 Crime Writers Association International Dagger Award, the judges praised Alex by saying, -An original and absorbing ability to leash incredulity in the name of the fictional contract between author and reader... A police procedural, a thriller against time, a race between hunted and hunter, and a whydunnit, written from multiple points of view that explore several apparently parallel stories which finally meet.-
Alex Prevost--kidnapped, savagely beaten, suspended from the ceiling of an abandoned warehouse in a tiny wooden cage--is running out of time. Her abductor appears to want only to watch her die. Will hunger, thirst, or the rats get her first?
Apart from a shaky eyewitness report of the abduction, Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven has nothing to go on: no suspect, no leads, and no family or friends anxious to find a missing loved one. The diminutive and brilliant detective knows from bitter experience the urgency of finding the missing woman as quickly as possible--but first he must understand more about her.
As he uncovers the details of the young woman's singular history, Camille is forced to acknowledge that the person he seeks is no ordinary victim. She is beautiful, yes, but also extremely tough and resourceful. Before long, saving Alex's life will be the least of Commandant Verhoeven's considerable challenges.
A 2013 Financial Times Book of the Year
Shortlisted for the 2014 RUSA Reading List Horror Award
About the Author
has worked for many years as a teacher of literature. His novels to date have earned him exceptional critical and public acclaim as a master of the crime novel and have won him the Prix du Premier Roman de Cognac 2006, the Prix du Meilleur Polar Francophone 2009, and the Prix du Polar Européen du Point 2010. Alex is his first novel to be translated into English, and won the presitigious 2013 Crime Writers Association International Dagger Award.
Frank Wynne has translated works by Michel Houellebecq, Boualem Sansal, and many more. He won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2005 for his translation of Frédéric Beigbeder's Windows on the World.
Reading Group Guide
With hairpin plot twists, characters deep enough to confound a psychoanalyst, and an intense yet tasteful dose of heart-stopping violence, Alex
by Pierre Lemaitre is an unforgettable experience that leaves readers with as many tantalizing questions as satisfying answers.
1. What are some of the narrative and descriptive techniques Pierre Lemaitre uses to create effective plot twists?
2. Does Commandant Verhoeven’s torment over the kidnapping and murder of his wife help or hinder his abilities to solve the case at the center of the novel? Does it seem that he believes he can find some measure of closure over Irene’s murder if he can solve this case?
3. At the end of the novel, do you believe the conclusion Verhoeven has reached about Alex’s motivations is accurate? Is Vasseur guilty? (If so, of what?) What might Verhoeven have—intentionally or not—overlooked?
4. After finishing, review the first chapter describing Alex’s “normal” day-to-day existence.
5. What clues does Lemaitre provide here that hint at what lies below the surface?
6. Is Alex a sympathetic character? Which of her actions can you justify or even relate to, and which do you find objectively repulsive?
7. Do you think Alex’s fear and acceptance of death is genuine when she is in captivity, or does it seem as though she is seeing several moves ahead, like a calculating chessmaster?
8. What is the significance to the novel of Maud Verhoeven, Commandant Verhoeven’s late mother who was a renowned painter? How does her “ghost”—as represented in her paintings and his memories—affect how he goes about his life and work?
9. Discuss the scene with Alex and Bobby, the devoutly religious truck driver. What do we learn about Alex’s attitudes towards God, spirituality and the afterlife? How do these attitudes manifest in her actions throughout the novel?