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Alex (Commandant Camille Verhoeven Trilogy #2)

Alex (Commandant Camille Verhoeven Trilogy #2)

4.4 28
by Pierre Lemaitre, Frank Wynne

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Upon winning the prestigious 2013 Crime Writers Association International Dagger Award, the judges praised Alex by saying, "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


Upon winning the prestigious 2013 Crime Writers Association International Dagger Award, the judges praised Alex by saying, "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."

Alex Prevost--kidnapped, savagely beaten, suspended from the ceiling of an abandoned warehouse in a tiny wooden cage--is running out of time. Her abductor appears to want only to watch her die. Will hunger, thirst, or the rats get her first?

Apart from a shaky eyewitness report of the abduction, Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven has nothing to go on: no suspect, no leads, and no family or friends anxious to find a missing loved one. The diminutive and brilliant detective knows from bitter experience the urgency of finding the missing woman as quickly as possible--but first he must understand more about her.

As he uncovers the details of the young woman's singular history, Camille is forced to acknowledge that the person he seeks is no ordinary victim. She is beautiful, yes, but also extremely tough and resourceful. Before long, saving Alex's life will be the least of Commandant Verhoeven's considerable challenges.

A 2013 Financial Times Book of the Year
Shortlisted for the 2014 RUSA Reading List Horror Award

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
A Paris detective with a past and a hostage with a history will shape each other in this sinister crime thriller. Police commandant Camille Verhoeven is a skilled detective struggling to cope with the brutal kidnapping and murder of his wife and unborn son. Alex Prevost is a beautiful young woman snatched off the street mere blocks from her apartment. She is next seen in a series of gruesome photographs—naked, filthy, and trapped in a wooden cage hung six feet above the ground in an abandoned warehouse. As Camille and his team race against the clock to rescue Alex, events occur that lead them to question whether she is truly a damsel in distress. This kicks off a series of plot twists that propel the reader toward an unsettling conclusion. Brutal, dark, and gory, this crime thriller, a best seller in Europe, will keep readers turning the pages until well past bedtime—with all the lights on, of course. VERDICT Celebrated French mystery author Lemaitre makes his U.S. debut with this tense work of detective fiction that is intended to be the first volume in a trilogy but functions equally well as a stand-alone novel. Fans of John Connolly, John Lutz, and Kevin O'Brien are apt to enjoy Lemaitre's graphic prose and contemporary noir style. The diminutive and complex Camille, standing at just under five feet, is a memorable sleuth, but for readers searching for a strong female protagonist, Alex Prevost remains a puzzle at novel's end. [Previewed in "A World of New Titles: Editors' Picks, LJ 7/13.—Ed.]—Liv Hanson, Chicago
Publishers Weekly
At the outset of French author Lemaitre’s impressive American debut, the first in a trilogy, attractive 30-year-old Alex Prévost is shopping for wigs in a Paris shop when she spots a man waiting on the street who’s clearly been following her. Perhaps he’s just an admirer who wants to meet her, she thinks. That night, after dining alone at a restaurant, Alex is accosted on the sidewalk by a man who, after discarding the wig he initially grabbed and seizing her by her real hair, throws her into a white van. Soon Alex finds herself trapped inside a wooden crate suspended from the ceiling of an abandoned warehouse. Meanwhile, Commandant Camille Verhoeven throws himself into the kidnapping investigation as a way to deal with his grief over his wife’s death, but he and his detectives have few clues to aid them in identifying Alex’s abductor. An irritant to his superiors but respected by his subordinates, Verhoeven uses his diminutive stature to unsettle witnesses and suspects while surprising them with his intelligence and wit. Some unexpected plot twists will keep readers turning the pages. 150,000-copy first printing. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
"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 eloquent thriller with a denouement that raises eyebrows as it speeds the pulse."—Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)"

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"

Before you can say Gone Girl, he discovers the crime is far from random and Alex anything but an ordinary victim. This gritty page-turner, Alex, is the first in a promised trilogy. Plus, s'il vous plait."—Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly"

Fascinating . . . filled with many twists and turns of plot along with a huge surprise."—Connie Fletcher, Booklist"

Genuinely unpredictable in a way few suspense novels are."—Charles Finch, USA Today"

Will keep you turning pages until well past your bedtime—with all the lights on, of course."—Library Journal"

Lemaitre's impressive American debut . . . unexpected plot twists will keep readers turning the pages."—Publishers Weekly (Starred and Boxed Review)"

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"

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, Independent

The winner of countless French crime-writing prizes, Lemaitre 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"

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 5 feet tall, 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"

Alex had me gripped more than almost any book I can remember, with one shout-out-aloud, knockout twist after another."
Peter James, #1 NYT-bestselling author of the DS Roy Grace novels

Product Details

Publication date:
Commandant Camille Verhoeven Series , #2
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Hachette Digital, Inc.
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Read an Excerpt

Her life is a series of frozen images, a spool of film that has snapped in the projector—it is impossible for her to rewind, to refashion her story, to find new words. The next time she has dinner here, she might stay a little later, and he might be waiting for her outside when she leaves—who knows? Alex knows. Alex knows all too well how these things go. It’s always the same story. Her fleeting encounters with men never become love stories; this is a part of the film she’s seen many times, a part she remembers. That’s just the way it is.

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.

Meet the Author

Pierre Lemaitre has worked for many years as a teacher of literature. His novels to date have earned him exceptional critical and public acclaim as a master of the crime novel and have won him the Prix du Premier Roman de Cognac 2006, the Prix du Meilleur Polar Francophone 2009, and the Prix du Polar Europeen du Point 2010. Alex is his first novel to be translated into English, and won the presitigious 2013 Crime Writers Association International Dagger Award. In 2013 Lemaitre was the recipient of the prestigious Prix Goncourt, the highest literary honor in France, for Au revoir la-haut.

Frank Wynne has translated works by Michel Houellebecq, Boualem Sansal, and many more. He won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2005 for his translation of Frederic Beigbeder's Windows on the World.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Alex 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
GretPC More than 1 year ago
A serial killer, deviant sexual behavior and hungry rats. What a story! I was a huge fan of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books and this book really reminded me of those. The heroine (?) is complicated and Commandant Verhoeven is such an original and interesting character. I really can't wait to read the next in the series!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A thrill ride that never stops. Creepy. Methodical. Unforgettable characters. One of the BEST mystery/suspense books I have ever read. A must read NOW!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book had my interest all though each and every chapter. I recommend Alex highly
eternalised More than 1 year ago
When reading through the Goodreads reviews for this book, Alex, it sounds as if the reviewers are divided into two camps: either you love this book, or you hate it. I loved it. From the start, we meet our main character, Alex. A man stalks her, kidnaps her, and puts her in a cage. He expresses his desire to watch her wither away. Meanwhile, the police starts an investigation into the kidnapping, and commandant Camille Verhoeven is set on the case. After his wife’s death, he rather stay away from cases of this nature, but the moment he starts investigating the kidnapping, he knows he can’t stop. He has to find this girl, and fast. But as the police gets closer to finding the culprit, they start to wonder – why did he kidnap Alex? Turns out that Alex may have some secrets of her own. This book is riddled with the unexpected. At first, I thought it would be a cut and dry story of how a girl gets kidnapped, and the police tries to find her. But then, an unexpected twist hit me straight in the face, so to speak, and I was hooked. From that point on, there are twists everywhere. As we delve deeper into the characters and their pasts, we learn truths we never thought possible. If you want a thriller that has it all, from a relentless pace, to shocking twists, to gruesome descriptions that make your stomach turn inside out, to characters you can’t decide whether you should like them or hate them, then you need to read Alex. I stayed up until 4 am to read this book – that’s how awesome it is. No self-respecting thriller fan can miss out on this one.
PVoetsch1 More than 1 year ago
A very twisted tale. This book takes you on a wild ride with unique characters and storyline. Very reminiscent of Steig's three stories, but it is also quite different. At first, you think Alex is a victim of a horrible abduction. The police, especially Commandant Verhoeven (who is duped into heading up this investigation by his superior) and his staff, undertake an investigation to find a woman who has not been reported missing with no leads whatsoever. Slowly the case evolves and the details and ensuing violence make this book extremely fascinating. The author has written more books but this is the first book to be translated in English. I hope more of the books are translated into English.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Like all of the reviews I have read you can not discuss this book without giving it away so let me tell you like this. The book is broke into three parts, in the first Alex of the title gets kidnapped like the cover flap says with the police not even knowing her name. Yet by the end of section one you get a twist. Section 2 begins and by its end again you think you know what is happened and you will be wrong. With section 3 you really have no clue what will happen and get a very dark resolution with you wanting more. The main characters Alex and Camille and his partners a amazingly complex and I can not wait to see more of them. Though I can not read French, I believe it is a great translation and gives you a good feel for this French setting. I will say that if you are squeamish at all this may not be the book for you, however if you liked Stigg Larson's books, or any of the other books from Scandinavian detectives like me then this book ay be for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is deserving of its accolades. The twists and turns keep you wanting to read more. I am interested in reading more translations by him. Thanks Pierre!!
JBronder More than 1 year ago
The story starts with Alex getting kidnapped and locked in a small crate. The man doesn’t say much beyond the fact that he wants to watch her die. At the same time, Camille Verhoeven has been given this case. It is hard for him since it is so close to what happened with his own wife. Camille is in a race against time to save Alex, a girl he knows nothing about. But things take a strange twist and Camille is on board unwillingly to find Alex and figure out what is really going on. It is so hard to review this book without giving away too many details. You have to discover them along the way. I have a love and hate relationship with Alex. You feel sorry for her, hate her actions, and then want to cry. Camille is very wrapped up in his own past and seems distracted with this case, but he does keep working to find out what really happened to Alex. This is a great story! There are great twists and turns, wonderful characters, and a horrifying ending. Be warned, the ending is a bit graphic, it works well for the book but it wraps everything up nicely. This is one book that you don’t want to miss. Now I want to read the other books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Camille is an obnoxious boor who should certainly have been fired. No real employer woukd tolerate his annoying outbursts, particularly frtom a ridiculous midget. Had he put a fraction of the effort into tracking the murderous monster as he put into posthumously justifying her actions, less evil would have been done. I was disgusted.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Locked my self out sorry
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read a lot of European mysteries and this is one og the best I,ve ever read. Actually its one of the brst books I,ve read--period.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Waits on a bench for her name to be called.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book keeps you on your toes till the very end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didnt know what to expect but this was a fantastic read that kept me on my toes. I didnt realize it was the second in a trilogy when i started it but this book stands on its own just fine and i cant wait to go back and read the first. If you like mystery or thrillers you'll love this.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel was exactly the style I enjoy. That being said, I'm a nursing student/ psych major, who has always been intrigued by psychological thrillers, true crime, serial killers, and I'm definitely not squeamish. I can compare Alex a bit to Gone Girl, with its twists and turns. Always keeping the reader guessing and switching up the plot. Totally enjoyed this book and I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers and suspense.
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TheLoon More than 1 year ago
An outstanding book in every regard. The characters were interesting, the writing was both foreign and concise and the mystery was well off the beaten path. Highly recommended.
GinaK More than 1 year ago
Although not for the squeamish, this is a book that will keep you interested and surprise you at the end of each of its three sections. I thought the first section was the strongest and the most original, but it held my interest to the end.