Baudelaire's Revenge: A Novel

( 5 )

Overview

Winner of the Hercule Poirot Prize for Best Crime Novel
It is 1870, and Paris is in turmoil.
As the social and political turbulence of the Franco-Prussian War roils the city, workers starve to death while aristocrats seek refuge in orgies and séances. The Parisians are trapped like rats in their beautiful city but a series of gruesome murders captures their fascination and distracts them from the realities of war. The killer leaves lines from ...
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Baudelaire's Revenge: A Novel

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Overview

Winner of the Hercule Poirot Prize for Best Crime Novel
It is 1870, and Paris is in turmoil.
As the social and political turbulence of the Franco-Prussian War roils the city, workers starve to death while aristocrats seek refuge in orgies and séances. The Parisians are trapped like rats in their beautiful city but a series of gruesome murders captures their fascination and distracts them from the realities of war. The killer leaves lines from the recently deceased Charles Baudelaire’s controversial anthology Les Fleurs du Mal on each corpse, written in the poet’s exact handwriting. Commissioner Lefevre, a lover of poetry and a veteran of the Algerian war, is on the case, and his investigation is a thrilling, intoxicating journey into the sinister side of human nature, bringing to mind the brooding and tense atmosphere of Patrick Susskind’s Perfume. Did Baudelaire rise from the grave? Did he truly die in the first place? The plot dramatically appears to extend as far as the court of the Emperor Napoleon III.
A vivid, intelligent, and intense historical crime novel that offers up some shocking revelations about sexual mores in 19th century France, this superb mystery illuminates the shadow life of one of the greatest names in poetry.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
02/10/2014
Flemish author van Laerhoven makes his U.S. debut with this intense historical crime thriller, winner of the Hercule Poirot Prize in 2007. As 1870 Paris suffers hunger, angry mobs, and Prussian shelling, melancholic police commissioner Paul Lefèvre stumbles upon a murder victim in a brothel. Written on a piece of paper near the body are verses from Les Fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire, who died in 1867. As new corpses appear, Lefèvre and his assistant realize that all the victims once opposed Baudelaire in some way—and that the menacing stanzas accompanying each body are in the poet’s own handwriting. Is an ardent supporter taking revenge, or is Baudelaire’s ghost afoot? Though the journals of an androgynous confidence trickster, who claims a twisted bond with the poet, offer clues, both policemen find their lives imperiled before the truth emerges. Overabundant philosophical exchanges slow the pace, and the explicit pain and perversity will disturb some readers. Still, the intricate plot, menacing atmosphere, and rich evocations of period Paris have undeniable power. Agent: William Clark, William Clark Associates. (Apr.)
Goodreads Belgium
“Baudelaire's Revenge is a real page-turner. Once you start, you are caught in the stream of a story that is fascinating and exciting. The language is beautiful, flowing. A must-read!”
The jury of the Hercule Poirot Prize
“Vigorous.
A finely-tuned balancing act between style and content. Add to all this the extremely convincingly painted tragic characters and the multitude of mysterious figures, and what you get is a winner who gives added luster to this jubilee edition of the Hercule Poirot Prize.”
The New York Times Book Review
“[A] decadent tale. Commissioner Lefèvre’sphilosophical discussions with artists and poets and a creepy Belgian dwarf are fascinating.”
Shelf Awareness
“Rich, atmospheric. This gritty, detail-rich mystery novel joins history and literary history to create a sly, smart revenge tale.”
Providence Journal
“Van Laerhoven creates a splendidly decadent and noxious atmosphere. [His] prose is rich and perceptive, filled with philosophical and metaphysical speculations. A terrific mystery.”
Kirkus Reviews
2014-03-19
As the Second Empire wanes, a series of murders baffles a dissolute Parisian police commissioner and his long-suffering factotum. Van Laerhoven packs much complexity into 256 pages, giving this historical mystery the heft of a far longer work—but not the coherence. In 1870, Napoleon III is losing the Franco-Prussian war, Paris is under siege, and aristocrats are girding themselves for yet another revolution. Amid the chaos, police commissioner Paul Lefèvre, whose police work is often derailed by his unbridled lust for courtesans and cocottes, and his dour assistant, Bernard Bouveroux, who still chastely mourns his long-dead wife, are puzzling over a series of grisly murders that have a common element: All the corpses are found with scraps of Charles Baudelaire's verse. Although the notorious author of Les Fleurs du Mal died in 1867, the poetry appears to be in his handwriting. As the investigation continues, the narration fragments as other characters add their voices to the puzzle. The diminutive Simone Bourbier, aka Poupeye, a charlatan and sometime clairvoyant, lures Lefèvre to her lair with promises of an orgy, from which he emerges dazed and addled as Simone, along with Claire de la Lune, Lefèvre's favorite lady of the night, vanishes. Simone's diary reveals that she is actually Baudelaire's twin sister, born with a deformity that caused the twins' mother to consign her to a convent. Simone confesses her incestuous affair with Charles, which resulted both in her infection with syphilis and the birth of her daughter—Claire de la Lune. As the revelations pile up—the twins' guilt-ridden mother makes an appearance, as do scenes from Lefèvre's and Bouveroux's military service in Algeria and episodes from Lefèvre's tormented childhood—the whodunit aspect quickly becomes secondary, since one of the many characters is the obvious culprit. Instead, the book's main preoccupation is the conclusive demonstration that everyone is guilty of something—the only mystery is, to what degree? The flowers of evil, sketched in lurid botanical detail.
Library Journal
03/01/2014
It's 1870 and the Prussians are massing along the French border. The poor are starving in Paris and revolutionaries are stockpiling arms. And a few men die in the most exotic ways—strange poisons, mutilations. Placed on each body is a verse from Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal apparently written in the deceased poet's hand. Trying to bury a savage tragedy of his own, Police Commissioner Lefevre investigates. Published for the first time in English, this roman policier isn't so much a straight detective story (although there are two detectives in it) as an evocation of a mind-set that now seems extravagant: the 19th-century poet's fascination with sex and death. It's no wonder this title won the Hercule Poirot Prize: the author is Belgian, as is the prize, and the twisted plot is as complicated as Agatha Christie's most convoluted mystery. VERDICT Mystery aficionados will love this pastiche of Wilkie Collins and Edgar Allan Poe but may have to suspend their skepticism while reading it.—David Keymer, Modesto, CA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781605985480
  • Publisher: Pegasus
  • Publication date: 4/15/2014
  • Pages: 268
  • Sales rank: 309,855
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Bob Van Laerhoven has written more than thirty books in Holland and Belgium. Bob has become known for his colorful, kaleidoscopic novels in which the fate of the individual is closely related to broad social transformations. He won the Hercule Poirot Prize in 2007 for his novelBaudelaire’s Revenge, now available in English for the first time.Visit his website at www.bobvanlaerhoven.be.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 20, 2014

    I READ MOST OF THIS BOOK WITH MY EYES REALLY REALLY WIDE OPEN. I

    I READ MOST OF THIS BOOK WITH MY EYES REALLY REALLY WIDE OPEN. I WAS WOWED BY THE DEPTH OF THIS BOOK, SO
    YES THAT IS YOUR WARNING, IF YOUR LOOKING FOR A BREEZE THROUGH READ THIS IS NOT THE BOOK FOR YOU IT WILL
    WORK THOSE LITTLE GREY CELLS IN THE BRAIN, SOME OF IT IS KEEPING UP WITH EVERYTHING THAT IS GOING ON WITH A
    PRETTY LARGE CAST OF CHARACTERS AND THEN THERE IS THE INTELLECTUAL PROSE THAT UNRAVELS A BIZARRE YET
    INTRIGUING TALE. I WILL NOT GIVE ANYTHING ELSE AWAY BUT IF YOU MISS ALL THE GREAT MYSTERY WRITERS LIKE CHRISTIE
    AND DOYLE WHO CHALLENGE YOU TO ACTUALLY THINK ABOUT WHAT IT IS THAT YOUR READING THEN DEFINITELY PICK UP
    THIS BOOK!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 12, 2014

    Plunge into Baudelaire's world! Commissioner Paul Lefèvre, 53, l

    Plunge into Baudelaire's world!
    Commissioner Paul Lefèvre, 53, loves poems by Baudelaire, considered “one of France’s greatest men of letters, a mere three years after his death” (page 2).

    Lefèvre also enjoys meeting with “wenches”. One day, he hears a scream from a bordello and finds a corpse. Near the body, bearing the tattoo of a mythical animal on the left wrist, is a passage by Baudelaire, apparently written in the poet’s handwriting. But can a dead poet come back to life to kill? As Lefèvre starts his inquiry, he discovers other murders, and they all have in common mysterious lines by Baudelaire… Lefèvre gets progressively involved in all kinds of crazy events, until he gets the shocking revelation of what really happened and who did it.

    There are great passages from Baudelaire’s poems interspersed, and lots of elements on his sick psyche, his drug taking, his family, also the tough competition between young poets.

    The historical context with Napoleon III, the Prussian War, and later on La Commune, is wonderfully recreated. The general disdain and hatred towards Napoleon are also clearly conveyed.

    The emperor was a simpleton with an inflated ego, who was determined t lead France into a war it could never win. p.10

    The atmosphere of Paris, with its catacombs, its dirt, its hunger and despair, is so real you would not want to go out by night in Paris if you were there as you read the book!

    The sky above Paris was restless and darker than the cloak of a servant girl waiting in a doorway for her lover. p.18

    The book starts like a regular mystery, and then it relentlessly plunges and drags you into Baudelaire’s world.

    The writing is incredibly good, the suspense of the main plots and sub-plots will not let you sleep. And I have rarely read a book that manages so well to drag you down to the depth of its darkness. Definitely not unlike Baudelaire’s Les fleurs du mal, and in that sense this is a real tour de force. I understand why it would have received the prestigious Hercule Poirot Prize for Best Crime Novel.

    VERDICT: In this super atmospheric historical mystery, you will have the opportunity to meet Baudelaire’s world and spirit. Beware!, it was a world of pure madness, of insane fantasy, of sick eroticism. Following very suspenseful plots, you will discover a shocking world superbly re-crafted for you.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 9, 2014

    Copy received from Historical Fiction Virtual Tours for an hon

    Copy received from Historical Fiction Virtual Tours for an honest opinion
    I have to confess I did not know who the killer was!!! I thought I knew but I was completely wrong! I really enjoyed this book and thought that the story-line was incredibly well played out. The two leading characters, Commissioner Lefevre and Bouveroux, were not the pillar's of priority or the most commendable characters. They both seemed very unfeeling and at times removed but it thought that that added to the uneasy feeling surrounding the story. There is a killer on the lose and this killer leaves passages from Baudelaire in the aftermath of the killings. I also really appreciated how the author was able to show the societal inequalities that were very much a big part of Paris during this time. I usually try to stay away from translations because I think that they sometimes can't capture the cultural nuisances in the translated language but this text didn't not suffer from that. I would not consider this a light story. It is dark and eerie but it was very satisfying. I really enjoyed and highly recommend this historical mystery!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2014

    great!!

    great!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2014

    I

    Hate


    You

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