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.
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).
The New York Times - Richard Eder
In this grave, achingly beautiful novel by Philippe Claudel, a village policeman writes out his sorrow-laden journal of the plague years. Their miasma envelops individuals' evils, decencies and mutual distances, and the deaths of four innocents.
The title refers to the listless waterway that winds alongside the town of V, in the French countryside, but it also seems to describe this meandering narrative.....a bloodless, nihilistic, open-ended whodunit.
Psychologically complex, elegantly written and tightly plotted, this is far from your average policier.
Lyrical yet earthy ..... tales of murder, torture, and suicide unfold gradually, like the petals of a poisonous flower, delivering staggering plot twists up to the final page. The novel's true genius, however, lies in its ability to explore war's effects on civilians without resorting to cliches or excessive gore.
Booklist - Brad Hooper
Starred Review. As riveting as the story line is, the setting, ambience, and lovely language .... partner to flavor this novel with punch and spice.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by donna nueva, silence of the dead Hardly to be called a crime novel, this existential novel about murder and relationships in a French town is an excellent read that will leave you thinking about the characters long after you put the book down.--Claudel is a master.
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A tale about a beautiful woman - an anonymous victim of a suicide bombing in Jerusalem - whose luminous smile, graceful neck and bright eyes are so beguiling that even in death she can lead a man to fall in love with her.
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