REVIEW: Irene by Pierre LeMaitre (Camille Verhoeven #1)

Series: Camille Verhoeven

Book Number: 1

Read this book for: an interesting serial killer (particularly for crime fiction lovers), a different twist on the crime novel format, French fiction

Quick Review: A bit confusing and overblown, but an interesting concept/idea. Would have wished for a slightly better explanation and execution of the idea.


Camille Verhoeven is a clever detective who has risen far and fast despite the large chip on his shoulder because of his height (he’s under 5’ tall). However, he is one of those rare detectives who has become happy in his personal life. He is drawn into the hunt for a murderer with a particularly grisly – and varied – series of past victims, but is he prepared to become the prey?

This translation of Pierre LeMaitre’s first book in the Camille Verhoeven trilogy, made famous by the second novel, ALEX, was disappointingly confusing. While the concept of this particular serial killer is rather fascinating, particularly for enthusiasts of crime novels, the overwrought, somewhat melodramatic execution actually made the book a disappointing read. But then, that was sort of the point.

As I said, it’s a bit confusing.

There were a few issues with the novel, besides just the confusion (which I will get to in a moment). The confusion may have been partially caused by the translation, as there actually were actually several typos in the edition I read, and several places where the translator would have benefited from a thesaurus.

Overall, the characters were overdone to the point of stereotype, as was the story – although on some meta level, that was sort of the point. Again, confusing. It was one of those needlessly complicated plots where a serial killer makes preparations and is driven by motives that go far beyond reasonable belief. However, the end holds a twist that almost makes the whole thing worth it, even though it’s executed in a bit of a rushed manner and is therefore missing a lot of what I felt was necessary explanation.

However, on that sort of meta level, this novel achieves exactly what it sets out to do. Without spoiling the ending (and some of the reveals along the way), the concept of this particular serial killer and his method of killing his victims is specifically created to appeal to avid readers of crime novels, but even I didn’t recognize some of the references. On the plus side, some of the references to existing novels added several books to my reading list!

I am planning to read the next novel in the series (ALEX), as that was the one that was very well reviewed and launched LeMaitre on the world stage. I am hoping for more backstory about Inspector Verhoeven and a more believable plot in that novel. Barring ALEX being terrible, read this one for the necessary backstory on Inspector Verhoeven, and the interesting concept, but don’t set the bar too high for the execution.

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