The book is hard to write about without giving away some of the plot. Because that is the main attraction of the book, I’ll try not to reveal much. The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair was written by Joël Dicker, a Swiss writer, and won the 2012 Grand Prix du Roman de l’Academie Francaise. The French apparently LOVE this book. I thought it was fine when reading, but after a week of thinking about it … well…
Two stories are interwoven throughout the book. The first is a young successful author’s attempt to write his second great novel. While he’s trying to write and consistently failing he visits an old college professor and friend in a small New England town to help him “find his story”. In the meantime, his friend becomes the primary suspect in a decades old murder after a young woman’s bones are found in his yard (they are found while digging up an area for some bushes, which made me wonder how far you have to dig in the ground for bushes, but whatever). This brings in the second story of the the fifteen year old girl’s disappearance and, surprise!, her statutory rape-tinged romance with the author’s friend (hello, pedobear!). The author decides to help his former professor, because obviously he isn’t guilty if he was in love with the 15 year old, and in the process ends up writing his next great novel based on the case.
The book is definitely a decent mystery with a thousand twists and turns in the plot. The twists aren’t that hard to see coming though, and you realize that basically everyone in this small New England town is guilty of something, everything. It reminded me so much of some film or TV show I’ve seen where basically everyone ends up trying to kill a guy who is already dead (If you can think of what the show is, let me know). There are actual clues to what is happening in the story, which is kind of clever, but made me think I was making up a different story in my head while I was reading (keep a close eye on the mother).
In the US its translation has been getting mixed reviews. On Goodreads people seem to either LOVE IT or HATE IT. Admittedly, there were two things about this book I started to hate. First he begins his chapters with cliched writing advice (from the professor to the author), most of which sounds like it came from the pages of The Artist’s Way (writing is like boxing and more blah, blah, blah). Also, for whatever reason Dicker sets the novel during the 2008 Presidential primaries. I can’t really understand why except that he wants characters to spout off random inane political comments. Purpose? Maybe to show that this is a truly American novel. Or to make it more realistic? I did hear a lot of inane political commentary in that period. Anyway, it just seems misplaced and a waste of words.
But in the end, I thought the book was fine. Despite the main character’s over the top confidence in his abilities and tendency to mansplain to everyone (even male cops), I enjoyed the story. It is a good page-turner, but at the end of the day so are Dan Brown’s books (which is why I curse myself the entire time I’m greedily reading those dumb dumb books). And at least Dan Brown doesn’t have the pretension of being, you know, award-winning literature.