It is completely dark now and the night is warm. A bus has just pulled up. She quickens her step, the driver sees her in the rearview mirror and waits. She runs for the bus but, just as she’s about to get on, changes her mind, decides to walk a little way. She signals to the driver, who gives a regretful shrug, as if to say Oh well, such is life. He opens the bus door anyway.
“There won’t be another bus after me. I’m the last one tonight . . .”
Alex smiles, thanks him with a wave. It doesn’t matter. She’ll walk the rest of the way. She’ll take the rue Falguière and then the rue Labrouste.
She’s been living near the Porte de Vanves for three months now. She moves around a lot. Before this, she lived near Porte de Clignancourt and before that on the rue du Commerce. Most people hate moving, but for Alex it’s a need. She loves it. Maybe because, as with the wigs, it feels like she’s changing her life. It’s a recurring theme. One day she’ll change her life.
A little way in front of her, a white van pulls onto the pavement to park. To get past, Alex has to squeeze between the van and the building. She senses a presence, a man; she has no time to turn. A fist slams between her shoulder blades, leaving her breathless. She loses her balance, topples forward, her forehead banging violently against the van with a dull clang; she drops everything she’s carrying, her hands flailing desperately to find something to catch hold of—they find nothing.
Revue de presse
“An auspicious English-language debut . . . With quiet virtuosity, Lemaitre moves the narrative through its various levels toward a concluding act of retribution that is both ingeniously conceived and immensely satisfying. Tricky, disturbing and ultimately affecting, Alex is a welcome addition to the rising tide of European crime fiction that has followed in the wake of Stieg Larsson’s death. Larsson’s many readers should take this book to their hearts and should find themselves waiting, with some degree of impatience, for the next Verhoeven novel to appear.”— Bill Sheehan, The Washington Post Book World
“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.”—CWA International Dagger Award Judges citation
"Genuinely unpredictable in a way few suspense novels are." —Charles Finch, USA Today
"Lemaitre’s plot is laid out with mathematical precision: a beautiful woman is kidnapped, stripped naked, thrown into a cage and subjected to the systematic torture of a brutal captor . . . Revenge narratives go all the way back to the Greeks, but it’s the vagina dentate component that sets a specimen like Alex apart, as Lemaitre adapts Larsson’s blueprint with moves of his own." —Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
“Lemaitre’s impressive American debut . . . unexpected plot twists will keep readers turning the pages.”—Publishers Weekly (starred and boxed review)
"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.”—Connie Fletcher, 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.”—John Dugdale, The Sunday Times
“Hypnotic . . . [a] remarkably determined and dangerous young woman—a woman who admittedly makes Lisbeth Salander look like Mary Poppins.”—Raven Crime Reads
“The winner of countless French crime-writing prizes, Lemaître is far too canny to join the ranks of thriller authors who merely revel in disturbing details and gory crimes. Where another novel would have finished, Alex is just beginning, and the book moves from read-as-fast-as-you-can horror to an intricately plotted race to a dark truth … There's humour here, and characters to return to, but really Alex is about thrills. And as the novel barrels triumphantly towards its unexpected but satisfying conclusion, it's in this respect that it deliver.”—Alison Flood, The Observer
“Relentlessly gripping . . . Various subtle variations of the crime novel are handled with aplomb . . . By page 200 you may believe that you're moving to a pulse-raising conclusion. But you will be wrong; in some senses, the novel has only just begun.”—Barry Forshaw, The Independent
“[With] a spectacular plot twist and the tension, along with the body count, mounts ever higher – an invigoratingly scary, one-sitting read.”—Laura Wilson, The Guardian
“What sets this work apart from the current crop of crime fiction is how utterly it confounds our expectations and challenges our moral certainties . . . [Alex is] book that will make you think, and one that any game reader will not easily forget.”—Christine Cremen, The Age (Melbourne)
“Fascinating, horrifying, not to be missed.”—Rolling Stone (Italy)
“Both a psychological thriller and a police procedural, it enthralls at every stage of its unpredictability . . . Grippingly original.”— Marcel Berlins, The 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. ”—Geoffrey Wansell, The Daily Mail
“An off-beat and slightly surreal Parisian mystery . . . A warmly recommended read.”—Jessica Mann, Literary Review
“Lemaître has achieved a milestone with his new novel: half mystery, half thriller, 100 percent successful.”—Jean-Christophe Buisson, Le Figaro
“Divided into three distinct acts [Alex] offers an intriguing structure … Lemaitre is not only providing a fascinating variation of the traditional crime narrative but also a commentary on the genre itself. Hailed as the most important crime novel in translation since Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Alex similarly features as an intriguingly flawed feminist heroine bent on vengeance, and will likely prove a sensation of the crime fiction year.”—Declan Burke, The Irish Times
“Exhilarating, literary, Hitchcockian . . . This new investigation of Commandant Camille Verhoeven resumes with the sense of suspense, the art of the unexpected twist, the play on emotions that so seduced us.”—Le Monde
“I was struck by Pierre Lemaitre’s short, sharp, staccato voice, right from the off. And it makes a gritty, hard-to-read-in-a-good-way tome that much more relentless . . . Paris is a dark, scary, borderline disgusting place, and like the rest of the characters in the book, is not blessed with any romantic flourishes. This is down and dirty, and not for the faint of heart . . . Lemaitre keeps it real, and really keeps it going: it is, I imagine, what it’s like to be in a car chase, in the movies. Kudos as well to the translator, Frank Wynne, who keeps the Gallic tone while perfectly infusing it with English idioms.”—Sue Conley, The Evening Herald (Dublin)
“The torture scenes are enough to make you squirm, with translator Frank Wynne retaining the natural flow of the French language while conveying the horrifying chapters with rats with frightening realism.”—The Herald Sun (Australia)
“Forget Scandi Noir: French noir is where it’s at. With torture scenes that make American Psycho read like Dear Zoo, it even has a Gone Girl-esque twist.”—Shortlist magazine
A top 10 Amazon best books pick, September 2013
"Every so often a crime thriller comes along that leaves you breathless . . . Alex is one such book and you are guaranteed a tale of the unexpected from start to finish. With its mesmerising female protagonist, and unique detective this is an absolute gem of a crime novel that is wonderfully dark, scary, mad, bad and dangerous to know, but just far too good to miss…"—Raven Crime Reads, Top 5 Crime Reads of 2013
From the Hardcover edition.