Lemaitre, Pierre - 'Camille' (translated by Frank Wynne)
The first thing about French Commandant Camille Verhoeven (Detective Chief Inspector) that characterises him is his height. At 4 foot 11 inches Camille is easily recognisable by members of the police force and judiciary, and also by his adversaries, and this fame often precedes him.
The second thing is the tragedy that has shaped his life for the last four years and has had a profound effect on his character, lifestyle and his methods of working; when his wife Irene was brutally murdered (in the first book of the trilogy) Camille descended into the black depths of depression and never recovered.
So when Anne Forestier is caught in the wrong place at the wrong time during an armed robbery of a Paris jeweller's, savagely beaten and left for dead, then pursued by the man intending to kill her, Camille is unable to let go. He keeps quiet that Anne is his lover, manages to get the case assigned to himself, calls in favours and breaks all the rules to save the woman he loves, stop the pain, find some peace. He fails to explain his reasons to anyone, including Louis, his extremely patient, exquisite and cultured right-hand man.
Frenzied Camille and terrified Anne know the robber is intent on killing her, following her every move in and out of hospital. The unidentified man is determined to exact revenge, and while planning the final move, he is also methodically analysing the criminal underworld and providing a running commentary on his own skewed take on the French justice system. As the construction of the novel cleverly moves between the perspectives of Camille, Anne and the robber, this adds to the suspense and unsettling mood, punctuated by the vicious scenes of violence, brutal images that might not be necessary yet sadly make sense within the story.
Camille's private demons, thoughts and emotions, cloud his professional judgement, yet the reader is left rooting for him. Within three days the well-respected Inspector of the brigade criminelle goes off the rails as the chilling plot unravels and the culmination is not what he nor the readers might have expected. However, I feel that this was the right way to finish the story, even though I haven't read previous two books and have only met this character in the trilogy's final instalment. CAMILLE is an intense, complex and very intelligent book. The psychological portrait of Inspector Verhoeven gives an insight into the mind of a broken yet hopeful man who, it seems against the external perception, is a lion-hearted hero.
Ewa Sherman, England