The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair

by Joël Dicker

I can’t recall whether I put it on my list or not, but I definitely should have. I bought the book on impulse after work one day (the benefits of working in an insanely huge hypermarket or whatever it is), but never got around to actually reading it – you know, with what the list and everything. I actually got a bit of buyer’s remorse at home, wondering whether the book was really as promising as it had seemed at the store.

Oh, it was.

I read it in about 6ish hours while on board the booze cruise between Helsinki and Tallinn, Estonia. “Booze cruise?”, I hear you ask. Well, the Finnish government thinks drinking is a huge national health issue and taxes alcohol rather heavily. Finns, being either irritated by this particular policy or just being cheap, travel en masse by ship to countries such as Estonia, where alcohol is less expensive due to lighter taxes. They drag back as much beer and other beverages as they can carry, pull or fit in a car within the import limits and drink plenty while on way. Of course, as the ships also travel outside Finnish waters, tax free on board saves the trouble of visiting the harbor towns altogether for the lazy or hung over.

I didn’t drink and woke up early, so I had plenty of time to read in relative peace before the still drunk or hung over flooded the ship corridors and decks. And so I read, and I totally love the book. At first I thought I knew what happened, then I was no longer so sure and the end really was worth the trip (as sadly isn’t always quite the case). I had some right ideas and I guessed some of the plot twists, but it didn’t go quite as I had thought, and the murderer (there is one) is really NOT someone you’d first think about, and not even the tenth. Totally unexpected.

Also, mr. Dicker has the outstanding skill of letting you believe one where the truth is exactly the opposite, quite alike the best Agatha Christie mysteries. Also, I half thought that he was American as that’s where the book is situated, but he’s from Switzerland. At least for me the feeling he gave off in describing the setting (a small town in New England) was very believable. I’ve never been to U.S.A. and everything I know is from books, so I might be mistaken. An American reader of the book might think it was all wrong, do tell me if you know better on this.

My copy is a Finnish translation, and I thought I couldn’t finish 809 pages on board, no chance. There are a lot of short interlude chapters on the way, making it a bit faster read compared to a book of similar length with less chapters. One should pay attention to the interludes though, as they tell a story all their own. The story goes on in so many levels one must really use some concentration to keep in mind who said what and when and to whom.

I appreciated how the main character had very believable faults. There was one point that stuck out a bit, but if you haven’t read the book I shan’t go into any more detail. Even that little hitch had a point in the story and added a whole another level. Somehow it just was as smoothly inserted as some other plot moves. All in all, I don’t think it’s that major a fault, just something I didn’t find quite logically sound.

The supporting cast were also sound characters, acting out all the same mistakes everyday people make. And when one gets around to digging, we all have our secrets, just like these imaginary ones. Theirs are just on average weirder than with me or you… or let’s at least just agree that it’s so.

All in all, were I in the habit of dishing out stars, this would get a 4,99/5. Not a full five, but so close it’s almost the same thing. So, if you’re into thrillers or crime books or just a good read in general, do give it a try.

I think in the end we did get to the bottom of the Harry Quebert affair. We must have.

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Summer Reading Progress

Well, I overestimated the time I would be allowed to read in peace. As usual, my husband was unable to find anything not currently in his hand and had me fetch whichever required but conveniently forgotten item from wherever he’d left it. I did get something done, though, and in honor of it I shall tell you as well.

Catherine the Great & Potemkin got the most love, 2/3 and a bit read. I wanted to finish it but realized I’d probably have no time to read anything else, and so put it down to rest. I thought I knew most of what I really needed to know on the subject, but I never knew how wrong I was. ‘Potemkin villages’ were just lies made up by people jealous of his accomplishments: few claimed as such include Odessa, Sevastopol and Dniepropetrovsk (originally Ekaterinoslav). Potemkin used the majority of his later life building the cities in his newly conquered territories, largely with his own money or money given by Catherine.

Fascinating. I really wish I had known that when I wrote about the villages in a school essay years ago. Oh well.

My second read was the Pamuk, Museum of Innocence. I didn’t get far past the 100 page mark when I realized it’s a book better fitted for bath rather than summer cottage. Or rather, not a rainy summer cottage. Had the weather been hot and sweaty it might have worked better. Didn’t continue, but will when I next fill a bath.

I did like it, don’t get me wrong. It just didn’t have the right feeling for that place at the time.

I mentioned the weather. Yeah, turned to relative crap on the second week. The first was alright, sunny and hardly any wind. Yeah, no such luck that we’d got some real sun: the wind picked up and brought clouds from somewhere (don’t really care other than that they could’ve kept them). And the clouds chose our cottage to rain over. Periodically, just so that you have enough time to assume there’ll be no more water and dry enough go out and get comfortable.

It wasn’t cold though, so it was bearable. My husband went back with his brother and it’s apparently 14°C and raining now.

The third attempt was my re-read project of the Shadowmarch Quartet. Got a decent chunk down between rainy spells, but I’ll have a long way to go before I get past the familiar ground.

I’m not entirely happy with my progress, but hey, as I said, I had other stuff to do. Like the sauna, the beer and general relaxation. Also, I did manage to clean the entire upper cottage, it was filthy. Clearly no one had bothered to mob the floors in years and whole generations of beetles had gone to die under the dinner table (I don’t know why it’s there, there’s really no need nor room).

And don’t get me started on the ants that had infested the wall next to the built-in bed. I had to sleep on it for two nights and I spent the whole night in fetal position trying to not touch the walls to not get ants on me.The ants had also left a lot of sawdust behind from their tunneling in the walls.

That’s enough for now, I suppose. I’ll get back to it when I actually get something finished…