As the First World War rages on, the daily life of a small town near the front is hardly disturbed by the report of artillery fire and the parade of wounded in its streets. But within the space of a year, this illusion of ordinary days is shattered by the deaths of three innocentsa charming schoolmistress from the north, who captured every male heart only to take her own life without apparent reason; an angelic eight-year-old girl, who is strangled, her body abandoned by the canal; and the cherished wife of the local policeman, who dies in labor while her husband is hunting the little girls murderer.
Twenty years on, the policeman still struggles to make sense of these mysteries that both torment and sustain him. In the pages of his notebooks he continuallydesperately, obsessivelysummons up the past and its ghosts. But excavating the towns secret history will bring neither peace to him nor justice to the wicked. And as his solitary detective work continues on these long-closed cases, we come to see that his efforts can lead only to an unimaginable widening of the tragedy.
In the policemans simple, plangent voice--full of unflinching scrutiny and the compassion of weary experience--Philippe Claudel gives us a tale of galvanizing suspense and an indelible meditation on morality.
It's very difficult to find the beginning. So much time has gone by that words
will never bring backand the faces too, the smiles, the wounds. Even so, I must
try. I have to cut open the belly of the mystery and stick my hands deep inside,
even if none of that will change a thing.
If somebody were to ask me how on earth I know all the things I'm going to recount, I'd answer that I just do. I know them because for twenty years they've been as familiar to me as the fall of night and the dawn of day. Because in fact I've spent my life trying to piece them together, to put them into place. So they can speak and I can listen. That used to be my job, more or less.
I'll be calling forth a lot of shadows, but one will be out front. It belongs to a certain Pierre-Ange Destinat. He was the prosecutor in V for more than thirty years, and he plied his trade like clockwork, never faltering, never breaking down. Actually, you could say he was an artist, and he didn...
A mature, patient reader will be rewarded by a gem of a book, both tragic and compelling, that explores the morality of crime and punishment, and the effects of war.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (561 words).
Philippe Claudel was born in 1962. Before becoming a novelist, he was a special education teacher in Nancy (pronounced nonsi) , and a screenwriter. He lives in France where he is currently "professeur de lettres" at the university of Nancy in North-Eastern France. This is his second novel; his first, Meuse l'oubli, (The ...
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