Book Review :: Camille

Camille (Verhœven, #3)Camille by Pierre Lemaitre
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This review was first published in The Hans India Newspaper

‘Camille’ is the final part in ‘The Commandant Camille Verhoeven Trilogy’ by Pierre Lemaitre. Translated from French by Frank Wynne, the book can be read as a standalone; although it is apparent that it completes a full circle for Camille, the protagonist.

In a series of seemingly random events, Anne Forestier is shot three times in a fumbled raid on a jewellers. She is taken to a hospital but an attempt is soon made on her life there. For Commandant Camille, it is an echo of a past tragedy when his wife, Irene, was murdered. He is determined to protect Anne at all costs. And so, Camille builds his one-man army and takes on Paris to find the man desperate to kill Anne. In this process he ends up breaking all rules of the police department, lies to his superiors and his team of his relationship with the victim, orders raids and shakedowns through trickery and ultimately comes through for the case albeit through making a deal with the criminals.

Although the story is not striking as such, the book is enjoyable in that it is captivatingly presented. Written in three parts; day 1, day 2 and day 3 with a time stamp at the beginning of each narration, it lends a sense of urgency and importance to the events; the reader feels Camille’s desperation towards solving the case and figuring out why the killer is hell-bent on finishing off Anne.

Camille, all of his four feet eleven inches, is running around Paris like Liam Neeson in ‘Taken’ single handedly solving the pieces of the puzzle, to protect the woman who has changed his life after his beloved Irene’s death. As one eventful day leads to another in surprising twists and revelations about the case and Anne, Camille digs in to his painful past to pick the one final straw that completes the story.

Given the dark tale and gruesome descriptions of crimes, the book has a surprisingly amusing tone to its narration. Swift introduction of characters makes the reader feel as though we have known them all along and this is only a reintroduction; which is true given that this is the third installment in the series.

This is the kind of fast-paced, tightly contained crime novel written in an anticipation building manner; the reader is glued to the events without wanting to miss a beat. There are no lengthy descriptions of characters’ long-winded thinking to bore the readers. Things move in a matter-of-fact sort of manner, brisk and brazen just like the writing.

In the first two books, ‘Irene’ and ‘Alex’, Camille is the centre of attention. However, in ‘Camille’, the criminal mastermind, whose name is not revealed until the last few pages, steals the show; what with his mirthful first-person narrative and his sarcastic and ironic understanding of events; don’t second guess your intentions as a human if you find yourself laughing with the criminal. He’s the kind of dangerous villain readers ‘love’ to ‘hate’.

The final takedown between the villain and Camille is a typical ‘rat in a trap’ situation. The reader can’t help but feel sad for Camille despite his victory, because this is a full-stop conclusion to his gripping adventures. Camille begins on day 1 at 10.00 am with, “An event may be considered decisive when it utterly destabilises your life…”—this is how the book begins and this is the note on which it ends.

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