The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker, (translated from the French by Sam Taylor) is an intricate murder mystery that has been compared to Twin Peaks crossed with Atonement, meets In Cold Blood. It has been creating quite the international stir and has enough twists and turns to satisfy the most blasé crime enthusiast, which makes it a bit nutty really, but you know, one can forgive that – or at least suspend disbelief. It has a few moments when things are more than a little overwrought and ridiculous and then you get pulled in again by the mystery and the writing. Made me think of Lost
but with a satisfying ending: more hooks than a longline.
26-year-old Marcus is desperate to write an amazing second book after the (somewhat daunting) success of his first, so he turns to his mentor and best friend Harry Quebert, a 60-something professor who at 35 wrote the defining novel of his generation. Skulking and sulking at Quebert’s New England seaside house, Marcus finds documents pointing to the inspiration for Quebert’s masterpiece, the 15-year old girl, Nola, he fell in love with, who hasn’t been seen for over 30 years. Until she is, as a skeleton in Harry’s garden, where he was planning on planting hydrangeas. Whodunnit and why takes up the rest of the book, as Marcus interviews all and sundry to try and clear Harry’s name – and to form the basis of the book he can suddenly see his way to writing.
The whole town is riven with doubt and suspicion and guilt and nastiness, and almost everyone is to blame. I didn’t find the whole Harry/Nola love affair believable at all – and the ‘great literature’ inspiring letters were just blah. The small village of Somerset is just a bit too gothic to take seriously but it was a rollicking read, an interesting central mystery – well, I kept going ‘cos I couldn’t figure it out and I wanted to know – mostly well written and very clever about writing and publishing and fame and learning how to fail – which outweighed in the end, the sort of boring, unbelievable characters and perhaps several twists too many.
I’d like to see what he writes next, and I bet this’ll be a movie soon. I’d say, worth a read, and enjoy the ride…