The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker, narrated by Robert Slade

I picked up The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair as an Audible daily deal, after my brother read and raved about it last year. At over twenty hours long it was never going to be a spur of the moment read, but after spending the summer listening to the entire Harry Potter series, a mere twenty hours didn’t seem such a daunting prospect anymore. I’m glad I got round to listening to it.

There were points early on that I wondered if I was listening to something by a new Stephen King pen name. Were it not for the fact that the whole crime hung together so well in the end, and never veered off into supernatural territory, I might still have suspicions. Our main character here is Marcus Goldman, a twenty-something writer still struggling to find his way. When his mentor Harry Quebert is arrested on suspicion of murdering a fifteen year old girl, exonerating Quebert becomes the subject of Marcus’s newest book.

Dicker populates his town with dozens of characters and his world-building is convincing, but in a very early-King trait, he doesn’t bother giving his women more than paper-thin characterisation. We have the shrieking marriage-obsessed mother, the self-centered social climber, and especially the archetypal Manic Pixie Dream Girl – Quebert first encounters murder victim Nola literally dancing in the rain for goodness sake. At one point, owner of the local diner Nancy berates Goldman for portraying her as nothing more than the spurned lover in his book, but truly this is Dicker’s flaw more than Goldman’s.

None of this is to say that I didn’t enjoy the book, however. I wasn’t expecting anywhere near as many twists and turns as it delivered, and while I loathe the current phenomenon of comparing every novel remotely thrilling to Gone Girl, it’s certainly the first time since reading Gillian Flynn’s novel that I had to stop in the middle of the night to text someone ‘OH MY GOD I CAN’T BELIEVE WHAT JUST HAPPENED’. Capslock early-AM shock really is the best kind. The eventual ending wasn’t completely satisfying, but the way all the puzzle pieces finally fit together made sense in ways I hadn’t seen coming. If I read a better crime novel this year, I’d be very surprised.

[Read from 22-26 September 2016]

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