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The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair: A Novel

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Overview

New York Times Bestseller
“Unimpeachably terrific.” —The New York Times Book Review
One of CBS This Morning’s 6 “Must-Have Titles for Your Summer Reading List”
 
The publishing phenomenon topping bestseller lists around the world, with sales of more than two million copies in Europe and ...

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Overview

New York Times Bestseller
“Unimpeachably terrific.” —The New York Times Book Review
One of CBS This Morning’s 6 “Must-Have Titles for Your Summer Reading List”
 
The publishing phenomenon topping bestseller lists around the world, with sales of more than two million copies in Europe and rights sold in more than forty countries, The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair is a fast-paced, tightly plotted, cinematic literary thriller, and an ingenious book within a book, by a dazzling young writer.
 
August 30, 1975: the day fifteen-year-old Nola Kellergan is glimpsed fleeing through the woods, never to be heard from again; the day Somerset, New Hampshire, lost its innocence.
 
Thirty-three years later, Marcus Goldman, a successful young novelist, visits Somerset to see his mentor, Harry Quebert, one of the country’s most respected writers, and to find a cure for his writer’s block as his publisher’s deadline looms. But Marcus’s plans are violently upended when Harry is suddenly and sensationally implicated in the cold-case murder of Nola Kellergan—whom, he admits, he had an affair with. As the national media convicts Harry, Marcus launches his own investigation, following a trail of clues through his mentor’s books, the backwoods and isolated beaches of New Hampshire, and the hidden history of Somerset’s citizens and the man they hold most dear. To save Harry, his own writing career, and eventually even himself, Marcus must answer three questions, all of which are mysteriously connected: Who killed Nola Kellergan? What happened one misty morning in Somerset in the summer of 1975? And how do you write a book to save someone’s life?

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Chelsea Cain
…unimpeachably terrific…Dicker spins a playful, page-turning whodunit, dense with suspects, multiple timelines, contradicting stories, past sins, town secrets, personal entanglements and an array of colorful (suspiciously behaving) locals…If Norman Mailer had been accused of murder and Truman Capote had collaborated with Dominick Dunne on a tell-all about it, the result might have turned out something like this. Though I suspect this version may be funnier…There are heady notions at play: truth and storytelling, mentors and students, writers and publishers, perhaps even a thought or two about the state of American literature…If this seems overly lofty, don't hold it against the book…Dicker never makes the rest of us feel stupid. It is one of his most winning gifts as a writer. It's this light touch and engaging voice—impeccably translated from the French—that make the writing so infectious…
Kirkus Reviews
2014-03-13
A missing girl, small-town secrets and literary ambition drive this busy, entertaining debut thriller, already a best-seller in Europe. Young author Marcus Goldman hopes his mentor, the famous American novelist Harry Quebert, can help with the writer's block afflicting his sophomore effort. Then their 2008 reunion in Somerset, N.H., is disrupted by the discovery of the remains of Nola Kellergan, who was Harry's very underage 15-year-old girlfriend at the time she disappeared in 1975. Dicker moves deftly between the two periods, as Harry is jailed for Nola's murder and Marcus seeks to exonerate him by delving into and writing about the old case. The 1975 narrative forms a book within the one covering 2008 events. Dicker throws in digressions on boxing, swipes at the publishing trade and Harry's 31 writing rules. Add a cast almost as corny as that of the board game Clue: There's the wealthy bachelor and his horribly disfigured chauffeur, the Southern preacher who blasts music to mask a terrible noise, the timid cop infatuated with the former prom queen who loves the famous writer who adores, alas, the jailbait beauty. Ah, Nola: She's sexy, devoted and resourceful before she's buried with a manuscript of Harry's best novel right where the gardeners, 33 years later, want to plant hydrangeas in his yard. Dicker keeps the prose simple and the pace snappy in a plot that winds up with more twists than a Twizzler. He might have done without the chauffeur's grotesque speech impediment and the sitcom chats Marcus has with his meddlesome mom. Nola's precociousness strains plausibility, and a demon ex machina out of Alabama is one twist too many—or maybe it's Dicker enjoying himself too much. He doubtless was hoping, like his characters, for a best-seller, and he'll probably succeed on these shores as well with this sprawling, likable whodunit, obvious ballast for the summer's beach totes.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143126683
  • Publisher: Viking Penguin
  • Publication date: 5/27/2014
  • Pages: 656
  • Sales rank: 30,994
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Joel Dicker was born in 1985 in Geneva, Switzerland, where he later studied law. He spent childhood summers in New England, particularly in Stonington and Bar Harbor, Maine. The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair won three French literary prizes, including the Grand Prix du Roman from the Académie Française, and was a finalist for the Prix Goncourt. It has sold more than two million copies across Europe. Dicker lives in Geneva.

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Read an Excerpt

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof.***

 
Copyright © 2014 by Joel Dicker

“Jesus, Marc, have you heard?”

“Heard what?”

“My God, turn on the T V! It’s about Harry Quebert! It’s Quebert!”

I put on the news. To my amazement I saw the house at Goose Cove on the screen and heard the presenter say: “It was here, in his home in Somerset, New Hampshire, that author Harry Quebert was arrested today after police discovered human remains on his property. Initial inquiries suggest this may be the body of Nola Kellergan, a local girl who at the age of fifteen disappeared from her house in August 1975 and has never been seen since.” The room began spinning around me, and I collapsed onto the couch in a daze. I couldn’t hear anything clearly anymore—not the TV, nor Douglas, at the other end of the line, bellowing, “Marcus? Are you there? Hello? He killed a girl? Quebert killed a girl?” In my head, everything blurred together like a bad dream.

So it was that I found out, at the same time as a stupefied America, what had happened a few hours earlier: That morning a landscaping company had arrived at Goose Cove, at Harry’s request, to plant hydrangea bushes. When they dug up the earth, the gardeners found human bones buried three feet deep and had immediately informed the police. A whole skeleton had quickly been uncovered, and Harry had been arrested.

On TV screen they cut between live broadcasts from Somerset and from Concord, sixty miles northwest, where Harry was in police custody. Apparently a clue found close to the body strongly suggested that here were the remains of Nola Kellergan; a police spokesman had already indicated that if this information was confirmed, Harry Quebert would also be named as a suspect in the murder of one Deborah Cooper, the last person to have seen Nola alive on August 30, 1975. Cooper had been found murdered the same day, after calling the police. It was appalling. The rumble grew ever louder as the news crossed the country in real time, relayed by television, radio, the Internet, and social networks: Harry Quebert, sixty-seven, one of the greatest authors of the second half of the twentieth century, was a child predator.

It took me a long time to realize what was happening. Several hours, perhaps. At 8 p.m., when a worried Douglas came by to see how I was holding up, I was still convinced that the whole thing was a mistake.

“How can they accuse him of two murders when they’re not even sure it’s the body of this Nola?” I said.

“Well, there was a corpse buried in his yard, however you look at it.”

“But why would he have brought people in to dig up the place where he’d supposedly buried a body? It makes no sense! I have to go there.”

“Go where?”

“New Hampshire. I have to defend Harry.”

Douglas replied with that down-to-earth Midwestern sobriety: “Absolutely not, Marcus. Don’t go there. You don’t want to get involved in this mess.”

“Harry called me . . .”

“When? Today?”

“About one this afternoon. I must have been the one telephone call he was allowed. I have to go there and support him! It’s very important.”

“Important? What’s important is your second book. I hope you haven’t been taking me for a ride and that you really will have a manuscript ready by the end of the month. Barnaski is shitting bricks. Do you realize what’s going to happen to Harry? Don’t get mixed up in this, Marc. Don’t screw up your career.”

On T V the state attorney general was giving a press conference. He listed the charges against Harry: kidnapping and two counts of murder. Harry was formally accused of having murdered Deborah Cooper and Nola Kellergan. And the punishment for these crimes, taken together, was death.

Harry’s fall was only just beginning. Footage of the preliminary hearing, which was held the next day, was broadcast on T V. We saw Harry arrive in the courtroom, tracked by dozens of T V cameras and illuminated by photolighting, handcuffed, and surrounded by policemen. He looked as if he had been through hell: somber faced, unshaven, hair disheveled, shirt unbuttoned, eyes swollen. His lawyer, Benjamin Roth, stood next to him. Roth was a renowned attorney in Concord who had often advised Harry in the past. I knew him slightly, having met him a few times at Goose Cove.

The whole country was able to watch the hearing live as Harry pleaded not guilty, and the judge ordered him remanded into custody in New Hampshire’s State Prison for Men. But this was only the start of the storm. At that moment I still had the naive hope that it would all be over soon, but one hour after the hearing, I received a call from Benjamin Roth.

“Harry gave me your number,” he said. “He insisted I call. He wants you to know that he’s innocent, that he didn’t kill anybody.”

“I know he’s innocent,” I said. “Tell me how he’s doing?”

“Not too great, as you can imagine. The cops have been giving him a hard time. He admitted to having a fling with Nola the summer she disappeared.”

“I knew about Nola. What about the rest?”

Roth hesitated a second before answering. “He denies it. But . . .”

“But what?” I demanded.

“Marcus, I’m not going to hide it from you. This is going to be difficult. The evidence is . . .”

“The evidence is what? Tell me, for God’s sake!”

“This has to stay a secret. No one can know.”

“I won’t say a word. You can trust me.”

“Along with the girl’s remains the investigators found the manuscript of The Origin of Evil.”

“What?”

“I’m telling you, the manuscript of that damn book was buried with her. Harry is in deep shit.”

“What does Harry say?”

“He says he wrote that book for her. That she was always snooping around his home in Goose Cove, and that sometimes she would borrow his pages to read. He says that a few days before she disappeared, she took the manuscript home with her.”

“What? He wrote that book for her?”

“Yes. But that can’t get out, under any circumstances. You can imagine the scandal there’d be if the media found out that one of the bestselling books of the last fifty years is not a simple love story, like everyone thinks, but based on an illicit affair between a guy of thirty-four and a girl of fifteen . . .”

“Can you get him released on bail?”

“Bail? You don’t understand how serious this is. There’s no question of bail when it comes to capital crimes. The punishment he risks is lethal injection. Ten days from now his case will be presented to a grand jury, which will decide whether to pursue charges and hold a trial. It’s just a formality. There’s no doubt there will be a trial.”

“And in the meantime?”

“He’ll stay in prison.”

“But if he’s innocent?”

“That’s the law. I’m telling you—this is a very serious situation. He’s accused of murdering two people.”

I slumped back on the couch. I had to talk to Harry.

“Ask him to call me!” I said to Roth.

“I’ll pass on your message.”

“Tell him I absolutely have to talk to him, and that I’m waiting for his call.”

Right after hanging up, I went to my bookshelves and found my copy of The Origin of Evil. Harry’s inscription was on the first page:

To Marcus, my most brilliant student

Your friend,

H. L. Quebert, May 1999

I immersed myself once again in that book, which I hadn’t opened in years. It was a love story, mixing a straight narrative with epistolary passages, the story of a man and woman who loved each other without really being allowed to love each other. So he had written this book for that mysterious girl about whom I still knew nothing. I finished rereading it in the middle of the night, and contemplated the title. And for the first time I wondered what it meant: Why The Origin of Evil? What kind of evil was Harry talking about?

————-

Two days passed, during which the DNA analyses and dental impressions confirmed that the skeleton discovered at Goose Cove was indeed that of Nola Kellergan. The investigators were able to determine that the skeleton was that of a fifteen-year-old child, indicating that Nola had died more or less at the time of her disappearance. But, most important, a fracture at the back of the skull provided the certainty, even after more than thirty years, that Nola Kellergan had died from at least one blow to the head.

I had no news of Harry. I tried to get in touch with him through the state police, through the prison, and through Roth, but without success. I paced my apartment, tormented by thousands of questions, plagued by the memory of his weird call. By the end of the weekend, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I decided that I had little choice but to go to see what was happening in New Hampshire.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 28 )
Rating Distribution

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(14)

4 Star

(7)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2014

    The best book I've read all year. A page turning thriller that w

    The best book I've read all year. A page turning thriller that will keep surprising you. 

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2014

    Very well-constructed

    Many twists - you will never figure this one out yourself. Two novels within a novel. As much about writing as about the mystery. Very intricate construction. Well worth it. Sorry it had to end.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 11, 2014

    What a great read!!!

    I thought this was a great read with so many plots and subplots to figure out why and who done it. I have recommended to friends because I thought it was a well done.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 8, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Marcus Goldman one year ago was a famous writer whose name and a

    Marcus Goldman one year ago was a famous writer whose name and appearance on stage, in stores, in the press, or anywhere one could imagine was bound to draw huge, immense crowds.  He’s now a wealthy man but is about to lose it all because he has a very serious case of writer’s block, an insidious disease that seems to increase with time and pressurized attention.  He fears failure and especially fears the disappointment that will be his mentor, Harry Quebert’s probable response.  But Harry Quebert is about to have another far steeper problem to worry about than Marcus’s brain freeze!
    The nightmare of the discovery of Nola Kellergan’s body after a thirty-year disappearance begins a spiraling journey involving the battle to determine Harry Quebert’s innocence or guilt.  Yes, Nola was last seen running through the woods of Somerset, New Hampshire and now she’s found with Quebert’s manuscript next to her very dead body!  Quebert is arrested and Marcus decides to investigate every single facet of Nola and Quebert’s affair, if one could call it that guilt-laden term.  That search is absolutely riveting and productive in so many unexpected ways involving unexpected characters.
    This is the story of what fuels the imaginations of great writers and how success can stymie even the most creative artist.  It’s about infatuated love from and between several characters that quickly moves into the dangerous territory of obsession.  It’s about guilty by association, betrayal by those suffering from unrequited love; and it’s about how delightful it is for the media to damn an alleged criminal because of an ill-timed association and the sensationalism that fuels public attention.  
    But much, much more than that this novel is about the depths of friendship, trust and loyalty that surmounts the fickle public and even private moods and opinions of former supporters.  It’s a magnificent novel that should be a best seller, a story that not only will remain in the public’s attention but deserves to be credited with a more truthful approach to guilt and innocence needing remediation in so many places and times!  Terrific thriller, crime fiction, Joel Dicker!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2014

    Cringe-worthy. It's not just that Mr. Dicker has a tin ear for

    Cringe-worthy. It's not just that Mr. Dicker has a tin ear for American dialogue. (Can you imagine high school students and teachers calling a new kid "Marcus the Magnificent" and meaning it seriously? Please.) It's more that Mr. Dicker has no clue about how human beings behave. A hardened detective who immediately confides in a young outsider? A small-town mom who is over-the-top pushy, petty, and clueless? The ridiculously stereotypical Jewish mother? And it's not just the minor characters. The two writers at the heart of the story, with their high-falutin talk about the art and craft of writing, seemed like Mr. Dicker's fantasy of the anguished artist. Maybe the author is not really French. Maybe he's actually Martian, and wrote this book after a two week visit. For us Earthlings, skip it.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2014

    Great

    I was sceptical about this book as there were some real bad reviews. These reviewers are wrong. The book is addictive and well costructed with many twists. As for the characters this is again a fiction book. It is a bit too long but once you get into it you can't stop reading. Great summer read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2014

    Saw this book recommended on B&N website - great choice! Wha

    Saw this book recommended on B&N website - great choice! What a fun summer read. More plot twists and strange characters and hard to put down. An interesting subplot on what it means to be a writer and the challenges of writing a compelling novel. And a story about friendship and love. I loved reading this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 23, 2014

    Terrific plot twists and plenty of surprises make this a rollick

    Terrific plot twists and plenty of surprises make this a rollicking read. Couldn't put it down. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2014

    Simply Unreadable - The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair

    This book may possibly be the worst book I have ever read. The plot was ridiculous, the characters impossible to believe and the dialogue downright painful. The conversations between Marcus and his stereotypical "Jewish Mother" feel as if you have been dropped into the "rejected scenes bin" of a very, very bad soap opera.

    I am convinced that this was never intended to be published as a legitimate novel, but rather, as a prank. Writers must have each been encouraged to come up with a different scenario for the murder, none of which are believable. An exorcism? Please.

    What could the New York Times book reviewer have been thinking?

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2014

    This is terrible. I'm amazed that Penguin published this.

    This is terrible. I'm amazed that Penguin published this.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2014

    Great read!

    This book captures your attention from the start and has a few surprising twists at the end that you won't expect.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2014

    would not recommend

    too long, too many unnecessary details, totally unbelievable story.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2014

    This book was one of the best! I enjoyed almost every page.

    I would read more books by this author. It was one of the first stories that I thought about whenever I put the book down and couldn't wait to start reading again to find out what was happening next. When I was finished reading this book I still thought about the characters and what happened to them.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 28, 2014

    HIGHLY RECOMMEND!! As an avid mystery reader, I'm always search

    HIGHLY RECOMMEND!! As an avid mystery reader, I'm always searching for more authors to add to "my favorite authors" - Nelson DeMille, David Baldacci, Jeffrey Deaver, Michael Connelly, Jeffrey Stephens, Vince Flynn, Lee Child, Jeffrey Abbott, and a lot more. I will be anxiously waiting for Joel Dicke's next book. The story line is varied and very complicated. Every time I thought I knew what was coming next, there was another turn of events which changed everything. I lost a lot of sleep . . . but it was so worth it. So many twists and turns - I don't know how he could come up with them and still it all made sense in the end. Fantastic read!!!!! Don't miss this one.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2014

    A complete waste of time and money.  The writing is simplistic a

    A complete waste of time and money.  The writing is simplistic and the characters shallow.  I felt as though I was reading a 12 year old's diary.  
    I would not recommend to anyone.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 9, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I bought this book as an recommendation. I didn¿t read  any of t

    I bought this book as an recommendation. I didn’t read  any of the reviews until after I’d finished  it, nor realise it was such a big seller.
    I'm not surprised.  It hooked me right away and kept me hooked. Despite its length,  it’s a very easy read.
    Marcus Goldman  is living a little too well of the expense of his first, bestselling, novel, when he should really be writing another one. Thankfully for  young Marcus, the body of a missing girl is dug up from the garden of his best friend. Working alongside the police, although independently, Marcus sets out to prove his best friend innocent. Whether he actually is, Mr Dicker  doesn’t reveal until the  very end.
    The novelist keeps the suspense going  throughout, with cliffhangers  at the end of  nearly every chapter. Goose Cove may be a small place, but every  door handle turned, opens  a closet with a skeleton  inside, and some have been there for a long time.  
    There are lots of suspects,  and I  had no idea which of them dunnit until told. The twists, which come thick and fast,  are for most part credible.  Many shock, and  some   are surprisingly poignant, as is the novel. 
    For anybody after an engrossing  crime thriller to lose themselves in, as much character as plot driven, I  can certainly recommend this. 
     As a fellow reviewer put it: Is at great literature? No. Is it a great story? Yes. 




    Nina Jon is the author of the Jane Hetherington’s Adventures in Detection crime and mystery series, and – coming soon –  The  Magpie Murders. 

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 24, 2014

    I loved this book.  I fell into the story each time I opened the

    I loved this book.  I fell into the story each time I opened the book to read and couldn't wait to get back to the characters when I had to take a break for, well, real life.  Solving the mystery was fun but I really liked how he made the town and characters feel.  I have already passed the book along but will get another copy for my library.

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  • Posted October 22, 2014

    Having just read the Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, I was looking for

    Having just read the Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, I was looking for another "page turner" and was directed to this book by a sales associate.
    It's just awful.  The protagonist is unlikeable, the narrative is trite, the characters are names with no depth, it's poorly constructed, and I couldn't wait to put this book down.  
    I won't keep it in my library and it certainly doesn't deserve one star.
    Other reviewers have written about twists?  There were no twists, just unsubstantiated meanderings as the writer fumbled his way to an ending.

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  • Posted October 12, 2014

    I am stunned at the people who gave this a one star. they all se

    I am stunned at the people who gave this a one star. they all seem to be offended by the Jewish Mother being a stereotype.
    If a great book has one flaw , it can still be a great reading adventure.
    As the other reviewers said, it has many twists and was and enjoyable book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2014

    This is this kind of book...

    ... that you can't wait to know the end, but that you don't want to finish because you want to continue to be around the characters...

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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