Montreal detective Victor Lessard becomes a target as he tries to unravel a complicated quest for revenge that takes him back decades, across 1,500 miles, and into conspiracy theories with ominous implications. As he struggles to put his personal life back together, he and his partner, Jacinthe Taillon, must decide whether they trust each other.
This gritty police procedural, the third in a five-book series, drops clues like breadcrumbs. Michaud’s presentation cleverly provides just enough information to keep the action rolling along but never enough to break the mood of suspense. Readers are cut loose in time and space and largely ignorant of the underlying significance of events; they have to piece everything together just as Lessard does.
The first thing I noticed when I started reading is that this book is not for the faint of heart. From the first gruesome death (which readers experience from the victim’s point of view) to the last, insanity and violence rule the lives of the characters. Alcoholism and drug addiction run rampant, death and abuse are everyday events, forgotten people languish on the streets and in rundown buildings, and friends, family, coworkers, and lovers seem to have little affection for each other.
As the book opens, characters are dehumanized, lacking names and described only vaguely: “the woman with the frizzy grey hair,” “the weather girl,” “the young [female] punk,” “the man [in his seventies.” The process of murder seems inhuman, too; the primary murder weapons are mechanical devices set to discharge when conditions are met, so no killer is present.
The constant slippage in time, space, and point of view becomes dizzying, even overwhelming at times. Nor do the characters provide stability: Lessard is wounded emotionally and physically; Taillon is crude, loud, gluttonous, and deliberately provoking. Nearly all of the detectives have something in their past that makes them act unprofessionally on occasion, which places others at risk.
Yet their dogged persistence, flashes of brilliance, and willingness to place themselves in harm’s way eventually solve the puzzle. Whether they have a life to return to once the work is done is another question.
Because this is a translation, apparently the first in the series to be translated from Quebec French to English, some of the wordplay in the plot may have been lost, and the narrative occasionally seems to have almost but not quite the right word. Still, the story flows smoothly and makes for a good thriller.
For several years I reviewed very few books because Amazon got snitty about authors as reviewers. When I read back through those old Amazon reviews, I decided to copy some to my own website.
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