Talking to Ghosts by Herve Le Corre and Frank Wynne (Translator)

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Talking to Ghosts by Herve Le Corre and Frank Wynne (Translator)

Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: An excellently written, wonderfully translated crime thriller that's not only scarily thrilling, it's also intelligently thought provoking and made me want to read it again straight away (and not many crime thrillers do that). Am I being a bit OTT? See what you think.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: November 2014
Publisher: MacLehose Press
ISBN: 978-0857052063

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French Police Commandant Pierre Vilar's young son Pablo went missing a while ago but he believes him to be alive; a belief that has wrecked his marriage. Meanwhile elsewhere, 13-year-old Victor comes home to a brutally murdered mother. Is there a connection between these two tragedies? That's something that Vilar is desperate to find out, no matter what he has to do or what it does to him.

Author Herve Le Corre is a well-known face at literary award ceremonies in his native France as his crime thrillers have brought him a groaning mantelpiece load. Now, thanks to translation by the equally excellent Frank Wynne, we who only read in English can enjoy one of his most lauded creations.

Published in 2009 in France as Les Cours Dechiquetes (The Shredded Hearts) this novel garnered no fewer than three awards including that year's critic's prize. The Shredded Hearts is as descriptive as the English title Talking to Ghosts is clever because this is as much about our two protagonists on the receiving end of the horror as the search for the perpetrator themselves.

This may not be a joyful novel (in fact it contains moments of pure heart break) but it has depth that pulls us in, plumping for both the haunted Vilar and equally troubled Victor very soon after we first meet them. The reason is that Herve understands the psyche of the bereaved (in Victor's case) and those who hold onto hope as the ground is cut away from under them (in Pierre's). In fact not only does he understand the psyche but he (and by extension, Frank Wynne) is fluent in the written language of violent, sudden loss.

Hopefully none of us reading will have experienced such loss first hand, but as we watch how tragedy undermines Victor's adolescence we feel a little of its authenticity. Meanwhile everything in Vilar's life is driven by his natural paternal urge to find his son; an urge that takes him into some very dangerous waters.

Indeed this isn’t only beautifully written, it's a thriller of nail-gnawing proportions as Herve ramps up the adrenaline. Yes, we meet the murderer part way through but it only adds to the excitement as we come to see the true colours of the monster in the darkness. We may also spot an important twist before it's revealed but this isn't even the impediment it may be for lesser writers. We're so engaged that it increases our fear rather than feeling remotely like a spoiler.

Gallic Noir has always been there lurking behind the recently more publicised Nordic Noir but now, with the assistance of such names as Pascal Garnier and Fred Vargas it's moved front and centre. Now that Le Corre's work is being translated, its place is definitely assured for a long time to come and I'm rather pleased about that!

(Thank you MacLehose Press for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: If you'd like some more Gallic Noir, we recommend The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas. If, on the other hand, you'd like to read another of Frank Wynne's translations, try Alonso Cueto's The Blue Hour.

Buy Talking to Ghosts by Herve Le Corre and Frank Wynne (Translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Talking to Ghosts by Herve Le Corre and Frank Wynne (Translator) at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Talking to Ghosts by Herve Le Corre and Frank Wynne (Translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Talking to Ghosts by Herve Le Corre and Frank Wynne (Translator) at Amazon.com.


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