The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker and Sam Taylor (translator)
|The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker and Sam Taylor (translator)|
|Reviewer: Susmita Chatto|
|Summary: A writer investigates when his mentor is accused of a murder which took place thirty three years ago.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 624||Date: May 2014|
|Publisher: MacLehose Press|
Confession - when I chose to review this book, I had no idea it had made such huge waves worldwide. I chose it because I hadn’t read a thriller for a while and this looked like a good one. Before the book arrived, I heard all about it – and it was just as well as I had heard so much positivity, as I also hadn’t realised it was such a hefty tome. (I’m not intimidated by hefty tomes, but experience has taught me that they don’t always justify themselves).
The information which attracted me to the book was this summary. Marcus Goldman has found fame and fortune with his first novel, but is seemingly blocked and in danger of being sued by his publisher if he can’t deliver a second novel, as his contract demands. Seeking help, he turns to his college professor, mentor and father figure, Harry Quebert, another bestselling author. But Harry is just about to become mixed up in the case of a young girl who went missing thirty years ago. The timing couldn't be worse… or should I say better?
The novel starts off brilliantly. Key characters spring to life immediately; the socio-political background is clear and the characters and their motivations are easy to understand. A sinister thread underlines the start of the whole book, and cleverly casts suspicion on just about everybody for everything.
The writing flows very well, in spite of being a translation. If I had not known it was a translation, I would have thought that the writer was American; he has captured the culture, the political eras and the idyllic nature of the small beach community beautifully. There is one (recurrent) issue in the writing that jars slightly; the fact that a police officer keeps referring to Goldman as writer rather than using his name. However, this would have struck me as odd in any novel, translation or not.
It’s a tiny issue in a novel that is mostly a gripping read. Dicker has made sure that even minor characters justify their existence. It’s good not to think too much about what the author intended -but I couldn't help but wonder about his intentions with regards to Goldman’s mother and Tamara Quinn. The former is depicted only by telephone conversations in which she is so toxic, I found it hard to read her remarks. But I have a feeling those were meant to be comic interludes. Tamara Quinn, a resident of the beachside town at the time the young girl went missing, is portrayed as being downright mean to her daughter and husband. But she gets a little more analysis in the form of, well, analysis, as we eavesdrop on her sessions with a shrink. However, none of what emerges from those sessions made me feel sympathetic towards her, but I have a feeling that was the intention.
The gripping plot line and carefully drawn characters made the bulk of this novel fly by – but at around three quarters of the way through, I felt we should be nearer to the end. One of the biggest tests for a thriller is a logical and satisfying ending, best accompanied as by an aha! moment where you wonder how you could have missed all the signs pointing towards this logical conclusion. This does include that, but the key findings are buried in some unnecessary twists and turns which simply delay the ending. I did enjoy the book but some of the later twists felt convoluted.
Overall, if you like thrillers, Americana and books about books, it’s a great read - but gear up for needing some patience for the change of pace in the last part.
Many thanks to the publishers for sending a copy to Bookbag.
If this book appeals then you might also enjoy The Raising by Laura Kasischke.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker and Sam Taylor (translator) at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker and Sam Taylor (translator) at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.