BookBrowse Reviews The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker

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The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair

A Novel

by Joel Dicker

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker X
The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker
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  • First Published:
    May 2014, 656 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2014, 656 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Megan Shaffer

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In this cerebral thriller, an author suffering from writer's block finds that life serves up its own kind of interesting stories.

The truth about The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair is that you can't put it down. At 600-plus pages, author Joel Dicker hooks you early and doesn't let go. Moving at breakneck speed, the novel is slick, wildly fun to read and stocked with red herrings that leave you frantically chasing down every lead.

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair is the story of hot new literary darling Marcus Goldman. With the success of his first novel still simmering in the spotlight, Marcus's high-powered publishers are pressuring for a second bestseller, and the stakes are high. The only problem is: Marcus can't conjure up a single sentence. Enter, Harry Quebert.

Marcus's former professor and friend, Harry Quebert lives in the small sleepy town of Somerset, New Hampshire. Offering quiet and solitude, Harry invites Marcus to stay in his home until the writer's block is overcome: an invitation Marcus can't pass up. Harry's home sounds idyllic:

It was a writer's house, with an ocean view and a deck with a steep staircase that took you straight down to the beach. All around was a tranquil wilderness: the coastal forest, the shoreline of shells and boulders, the damp thickets of ferns and moss, a few walking trails that ran alongside the beach. If you didn't know that civilization was only a few miles away, you might easily believe yourself to be at the end of the earth. It was also easy to imagine yourself an old writer here, producing masterpieces out on the deck, inspired by the tides and the light on the ocean.

It is around this writer's Eden that the story spins. When the missing bones of fifteen-year old Nola Kellergan are discovered and Harry is named as the prime suspect, Marcus sets out to prove his mentor's innocence. As Marcus pursues his own investigation into the murder, his determination to reveal the town's long-buried secrets leads the young writer into a truth much stranger than any fiction.

The setting is perfect for the physical working of the story, but it's the locals that are essential in fleshing it out. Dicker is deft with his use of characters and carefully employs them to replay clues and recap plausible scenarios and motives. His dialogue is tuned and believable, and continuously keeps the reader in the game.

Dicker offers more than just thrills, his prose is also serious and offers a sensitivity seen through the relationships of his characters, particularly when Harry weighs in. "The reason writers are such fragile beings, Marcus, is that they suffer from two sorts of emotional pain, which is twice as much as a normal human being: the heartache of love and the heartache of books. Writing a book is like loving someone. It can be very painful."

Each chapter starts with a literary suggestion, offering a clue of what's to come:

"When you get to the end of the book Marcus, give your reader a last-minute twist."
"Why?"
"Because you have to keep them on tenterhooks until the end. It's like when you're playing cards: you have to hold a few trump cards for the final part of the game."

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair offers tenterhooks, trump cards and enough suspense to keep you on perpetual high alert. Quebert reads like a motion picture and is a solid choice for those who love an intellectual thriller.

Reviewed by Megan Shaffer

This review is from the June 18, 2014 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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