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Thursday 15 July 2021

'Rosy & John' by Pierre LeMaitre

Translated by Frank Wynne
Published by Maclehose Press,
8 July 2021.
ISBN: 978-1-529416-80-0 (PBO)

A bomb explodes on a quiet Paris street. No one is killed, and injuries are slight. Anti-terrorist measures are implemented, but the bomber is quickly caught, and confesses. Case closed, or so you’d think.

But this is only the beginning for Camille Verhoeven, detective extraordinaire, and the only person Jean Garnier the bomber will talk to. His is a sad story: his girlfriend died in a car crash, his mother is in prison, and he has just lost his job. But none of that really explains why he has planted seven bombs, each in a different location, and timed to explode at twenty-four-hour intervals, the next one under a nursery school with potentially devastating consequences.  

 It’s up to Camille to find out what Jean is up to, and more importantly, where the bombs are located. And he has less than twenty-four hours to accomplish the task.

I don’t know if it was the author’s intention to turn this edge-of-the-seat scenario into black comedy, but that’s how it turned out. Camille Verhoeven is only four feet eleven, and although his reputation and skill as a detective far outweigh his diminutive stature, one can’t help but wonder if the smile that image raises is intentional on Le Maitre’s part. Then there’s Anne, Camille’s long-term, long-suffering girlfriend; their relationship is a catalogue of broken dates, spoiled meals and missed messages, and her resigned sighs thread a lighter path through the gathering mayhem.

Then there’s Pelletier, a more conventional kind of policeman, whose hard-man tactics meet with no success whatsoever. You’ve got to laugh, however wryly. 

It’s fundamentally a sad story, of course, with a complex motive for Our Hero to unravel. It is bound to end in tears for someone, but until the inevitable happens, that underlying layer of very dark comedy is there.

It’s a short book, less than half the length of most crime novels, but it packs a great deal into a small space: larger (or smaller, depending on your point of view) than life characters; an informative picture of the rivalries and politicking found inside a French police station; one of the most enigmatic fictional villains I’ve recently encountered; and an ending that took me by surprise even though once it had happened, it was obvious where it was all leading. All I can say is – read it and see for yourself.

Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Pierre Lemaitre was born in Paris in 1956. He worked for many years as a teacher of literature and now devotes his time to writing novels and screenplays.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of themcrime fiction.

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