The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker (5 out of 5)
This book arrived, without much of a flourish, at the store last week. It’s one of those books that you are drawn into instantly. The cover is visually noir, and reminded me a lot of Twin Peaks. Reading the back, one instantly sees a blurb likening the book to Stieg Larsson’s Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series. It’s been on the bestseller list in Europe for some time, and has now been translated into English. Based on reviews that were read on Amazon, the American populace writing reviews for the Hachet Hachette Jungle System seems deigned to throw this book onto a barbie with some Stephen Colbert Shrimp. This blogger begs to differ and begs you to give this book a chance. One can only hope that a talented director (David Lynch and David Fincher) gets ahold of this and makes it into a movie without losing any of its literary rollercoaster action (and there’s plenty of it). I think Robert Duvall would make a great Harry Quebert, for the record.
Marcus Goldman is a young aspiring novelist with one bestselling smash under his belt. Only problem is, it’s time to deliver that all-too-important book following up a worldwide smash debut, and he is devoid of inspiration. In an act of last minute panic, he hops on a plane back to Somerset, New Hampshire, to visit his mentor and former professor (and successful author of the bestselling smash The Origins of Evil). Marcus isn’t out there too long before things start getting very weird. Harry confesses to Marcus that he had an affair thirty three years before with fifteen year old Nola Kellergan, something that he has managed to conceal all these years, yet which torments his every waking hour. This is no ordinary love story, reader. Shortly after the forbidden relationship begins and the very day they are due to leave town to elope, Nola disappears into a forest. A solitary woman living in a house phones in a report that a young lady covered with blood is in need of help; when police arrive, Nola is long gone and the woman who phoned in the call for help, Deborah Cooper, is dead from a gunshot wound to the head. Nola’s never found, the perpetrator is never found, and the mystery not only destroys the idyllic backwoods community, but it also destroys Harry, who has lost the love of his life. It is also fair to mention that the relationship was such a no-no due to the fact that Harry is in his thirties and Nora is only fifteen years old when they begin seeing each other secretly. Marcus heads back to New York to try to deliver his novel before the deadline, but receives a phone call informing him of a grisly discovery in Harry’s yard- a buried skeleton. Buried with the skeleton? An original manuscript of Harry’s bestselling novel The Origins of Evil. Forensics show it to be Nola. Harry is quickly arrested and charged with her and Deborah’s murders. Marcus quickly flies back out to Somerset to help his mentor out however he can. Of course, this translates into him getting pulled into what seems to be a cut and dried case of guilt. Somerset and its inhabitants, however, are nothing as you would imagine them. Marcus’s writers block evaporates quickly as he finds himself looking into people, places, and things more than he should be. His publisher proposes he write a book about the case. Usually, one might say that’s where the book gets more contrived, due to that plot development. That’s definitely not the case here. If anything, not only does it enrich the plot and strengthen his connection to Harry, but it lends an air of believability to the book and Marcus hanging around. Most people would stand by their friends, but most would get the hell out of Dodge with the cloud of guilt that’s surrounding Harry through the entire first half of the book. Marcus having a second angle made it much more believable, in my opinion. The clock is ticking, both on Harry’s being tried and convicted in a court of law for the crimes, and on Marcus making his deadline on the second book to the publisher. My utter astonishment is that not only did I still care about the one, but I was firmly rooting for the character to make the deadline. Obviously, you want justice for Nola as well, and three very different endings are delivered, to utter satisfaction of the reader.
This book is something else. You have a whole net of intermingling circumstances and characters jeopardizing investigations all over the place. You never know what the hell is going to come down in the next chapter. No shortage of suspects, no shortage of twists and turns, no shortage of back story, nothing is left waning. The characters are all remarkably real and yet there arediabolical sides to all of them. Every single one. The town? Somerset reminds me a hell of a lot of Twin Peaks. I’m not even sure why, there is just an air to this book that reminded me greatly of the classic cult show. There are reviews of this book on Shamazon that call it a funny novel. There are parts of light-heartedness, specifically between Harry and Marcus, in the flashbacks, and between Marcus and the law enforcement official who ends up helping him try to solve the crime. It’s not funny, though. I would call it spine-tingling and enthralling. You simply have no idea what is going to be revealed or discovered next. Nola’s voice is there throughout the novel, and you have the usual different character assessments and assassinations that one normally hears in everyday murder trials. when her story is revealed, well, just prepare yourself to have no idea that it was heading in that direction. Simply stunning.
Overall, I can’t say enough how much I loved this book. I haven’t read a book like this since Shadow of The Wind where I had no idea whether it was coming or going, and I certainly did not have any idea how it was going to end. Precisely the type of book that I love to read and recommend. Don’t listen to the hypocritical hype board currently reviewing on that bastion of bookery; give this book a read, you won’t be disappointed!