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Alex: The Commandant Camille Verhoeven Trilogy    by Pierre LeMaitre order for
by Pierre LeMaitre
Order:  USA  Can
MacLehose Press, 2014 (2013)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

I have just finished reading a translation from the French of a winner of the CWA International Dagger Award Best Crime Novel. This is the second of a trilogy featuring Camille Verhoeven - a four-foot eleven inch Police Commandant. I have not read the first, Irene, but Alex works very well as a stand-alone.

A young woman Alex Prevost has been kidnapped and imprisoned in a small wooden cage suspended from the ceiling of an abandoned warehouse. She knows that someone is watching her agonies of deprivation of food and water, obviously enjoying watching her slowly die. We don't know who or why at this point.

We discover that Camille had lost his beloved wife Irene three years ago and has just returned to his police duties. Someone murdered her and Camille feels he put her in harm's way. He can't forgive himself.

We also learn a bit about the girl in the hanging cage. She may not be the ordinary girl she presents to the world. She seems beautiful and lovely and kind and caring. All those qualities won't help her in her wooden prison. We, the readers, know that Alex has only just so long to live in her cage. Will rats begin to nibble at her? Will the clever and resourceful Camille find her in time?

Meanwhile, we are treated to glimpses of the Paris not every tourist gets to see. I've had the good luck to see a bit of that lovely city but most of what Camille drives and walks through is not on the tourist route. Interesting, nonetheless. And helps to keep the plot moving at a steady and frightening pace. There's lots of tension and a denouement that will knock your socks off.

But ... ah, yes. The ubiquitous BUT. Camille begins to wonder about Alex. At the same time, there have been several horrific murders that fall under Camille's jurisdiction. While the victims don't seem to have anything in common, the method of murder used to kill them is the same. Is there a connection? If there is, what is it? Are these people picked at random?

I was hooked from the first page. And knowing that I had the next in the series, Camille, to open made me a very happy camper. Camille is a man to remember. His mother was a habitual smoker and continued to smoke excessively during her pregnancy with Camille. Hence, his small stature. However, with this handicap, he manages very well living in a tall world. We do what we must no matter the circumstances.

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