Book: Blood Wedding
Author: Pierre Lemaitre
Price: Rs 399
If one didn’t know better, or couldn’t read between the lines, Pierre Lemaitre’s crime thrillers would come off as the work of a depraved, misogynistic man who seeks pleasure in inflicting terrible pain on his female protagonists. And if you’d let your imagination get carried away, perhaps, you might see an unremarkable-looking Frenchman, whose smile does him no favours, play with a coodoo doll, sticking pins into its rag doll body and tossing it into a fire. The award-winning crime writer does not treat his women well. But neither does the world outside the pages of his latest offering, Blood Wedding. So you must resign yourself to the fact that if Lemaitre has chosen to spill even a drop of Sophie Duguet’s blood, it is for good reason.
Sophie is living a nightmare. A nanny to six-year-old Leo, she is constantly battling her mind and her memory, that for reasons she cannot fathom, refuse to cooperate with her. Sleep is not restful, there are long gaps in the day when she cannot remember where she has been and what she has done. But Leo is a kind, understanding child. So, when she wakes up one day and finds the boy strangled in his bed, his hands tied to his ankles, she must finally accept that the madness that is killing her inside, has somehow manifested itself in his murder. In true Lemaitre style, our heroine goes on the run, discovering her survival instincts almost as effortlessly as Alex, the best unreliable protagonist from the second book of the Commandant Camille Verhœven trilogy.
How can one praise Lemaitre? Let us count the ways. The 65-year-old writer’s success in this particular genre possibly stems from the blatant disregard he has for his readers. The world is beautiful, but it is also inexplicably cruel, ma chère, is it not? So why sugarcoat it? He has no time to waste, murders are a-waiting, gore must be dealt with, and a woman must fight with everything she has if she wants to survive. Lemaitre is a feminist in the way Stieg Larsson was — the late Swedish writer’s first book in the Millennium Trilogy, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’s original Swedish title was Men Who Hate Women. In Blood Wedding, it would appear that Lemaitre shares Larsson’s perspective of a world where a woman is a plaything and a weapon in equal measure, and her freedom comes at a terrible price.
The murders, the chase, the omniscient narrator who dryly comments on everything from the weather to his character’s fashion choices — these are all staples of Lemaitre’s oeuvre. But as with Alex, the best part about Blood Wedding and Sophie’s bizarre tale is when he deftly pieces together the puzzle behind the heinous crime, and the whole picture is so painfully simple, so crystal clear, it beggars belief. And then his work is done and you’ve just finished a book about a crime that you would never have seen coming.