International best-selling author Pierre Lemaitre pens this novella following the cases of Commander Camille Verhœven of the Brigade Criminelle in Paris. Camille is four foot eleven inches, but his small stature greatly contrasts his renowned experience and reputation as one of the greatest French detectives.
At 5 pm on the run Joseph-Merlin in Paris, a timed bomb explodes and rocks the area leaving behind twenty-eight injured and shockingly no fatalities. Still, it could have been much worse if not placed underground in the building with scaffolding covering the outside. While the police start the investigation, Jean (John) Garnier walks into a police station, claims responsibility for planting the bomb and gives them details that prove he is the bomber.
“He is prepared to tell all, but in his own time, things have to play out exactly as he imagined. He is meticulous. “The mortar shells . . . I planted seven of them. There are six more. One explosion every day. That’s how they’re rigged.” “But . . .” Camille is dumbfounded. “What is it you want?” Jean wants his mother [Rosy] (who is on remand) and himself (he is about to be taken into custody) to be released.”
He goes on to request new identities, a flight for them both to Australia and €5million. To add to Jean’s compelling motivation, his mother Rosy is on remand for murdering his girlfriend. The secrets that mother and son hold tightly are bemusing, insane and potent.
The authorities are not quite sure how to handle Jean and uncover the location of the other 6 bombs. Do they play good cop, bad copy or play tag between the two? The interest in the case goes to the very top, and anti-terrorist forces are brought into forcibly discover the information they need. It becomes clear that while the authorities read Jean as someone bemused, laughable (but for the seriousness of the bombing), and naïve, they may have jumped to premature judgement. With beatings to reveal the location of the other six bombs, Jean remains silent and behaves as though this is what he was expecting. Eventually, control comes back to Camile Verhœven, and we see another shift in approach. The dialogue is fully engaging, and the writing around this interplay is extremely clever to draw the shifting power between Jean and the authorities. The count down to the remaining bombings is dramatic, and the uncertainty on how to handle the situation adds a wonderful sense of peril for everyone.
The positive feelings of; I wish this had been longer, and I can’t believe so much was covered in a novella, reflects on the wonderful story, which can surely be said of this book. I would recommend this book, and I would like to thank Quercus Books, MacLehose Press and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC in return for an honest review.