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.