Copyright 2012 Penguin Books
Copyright 2014 Translation
I really don’t know why I bother reading “whodunits” anymore. Every single mystery novel I have read this year has been predictable and leaves me disappointed. This novel was no exception. When I saw the formidable size of the book (it is over 500+ pages), I made the unfortunate assumption that perhaps the experience of reading this would be different. I will no longer be fooled by accolades that say “International Bestseller.” I will also no longer trust the one-line praises by other reputable authors. Books speak differently to different people, and although I am conditioned to trust the praises of other amazing authors, I must face the fact that sometimes, their definition of “tour de force” (a term that I believe is overused) may counter mine.
What really intrigued me about the book was the fact that it had been dubbed as the “awaited” new novel to come out of Europe that matched the brilliance of the late Stieg Larsson, the author of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” trilogy, which was published posthumously. I read this trilogy and was pleasantly surprised by the exquisiteness of the translation from Swedish into the English language. I believe that the downfall of The Harry Quebert Affair was how poor the translation was from the French language. I believe that if I had read this book in its original language (if I could even understand, speak and read French), my feelings for it would be much different. Reading it made the English language sound so amateur. As far as the comparison to Stieg Larsson, the plot, the authorship, the twists-and-turns, and the surprise factor did not even come close. To place Stieg Larsson’s genius of a trilogy in the same column as this book is an insult. I am very critical of The Harry Quebert Affair only because it was placed on such a high pedestal. They say the higher you are placed, the longer and harder you fall. I pushed this book off its pedestal last night… and it’s still falling.
If you want to read a truly impressive, intelligently smart whodunit mystery (and I’ve mentioned this book many times before and I’ll mention it again), read Play Dead, by Harlan Coben. You won’t regret it.