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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Pierre Lemaitre

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To purchase Camille

Title: Camille
Author: Pierre Lemaitre
Genre: Novel
Written: 2012 (Eng. 2015)
Length: 266 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Camille - US
Camille - UK
Camille - Canada
Sacrifices - Canada
Camille - India
Sacrifices - France
Camille - Italia
  • French title: Sacrifices
  • Translated by Frank Wynne
  • The third in the Commandant Verhœven series

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Our Assessment:

B : violent and far-fetched, but almost winning in its absurdities

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 4/5/2015 .
Sydney Morning Herald . 25/4/2015 Sue Turnbull

  From the Reviews:
  • "(T)he stunning final volume of Lemaitre's Commandant Camille Verhoeven trilogy" - Publishers Weekly

  • "If you can get over the initial shock (I've learnt to "surf the prose" in such situations), the rewards are great. Lemaitre lures us into the labyrinth on the track of intriguing characters about whom we have come to care, largely as a result of the awful trials they have been through." - Sue Turnbull, Sydney Morning Herald

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Camille is the third installment in the series featuring the diminutive (he's under five foot tall) Commandant Camille Verhœven. He's been through a lot over the past few years, including the devastating loss of his beloved wife Irène (as recounted in Irène). And on Verhœven's schedule on the fateful day when Camille begins he has a funeral to attend -- yet another personal loss:

     He misses Armand more than anyone. With his death, Verhœven's team has been wiped off the face of the earth. The funeral is the beginning of a new chapter, in which Camille will try to rebuild his life. Nothing could be more fragile.
       No kidding.
       In fact, the day started out even worse: there's finally another woman in Camille's life, Anne Forestier, but she apparently stumbled into a jewelry heist and was beaten to a pulp, with a couple of shotgun blasts just missing her for good measure. Verhœven sees red -- including lots of Anne's blood -- and is determined to hunt down the guilty parties -- police protocol and procedures be damned.
       Verhœven doesn't reveal his connection to the victim, and gets the case assigned to him -- and that's just the beginning of him riding roughshod over any and all standard (and sensible) procedure. With her attacker being spotted in the hospital where Anne is Verhœven is determined to do whatever it takes. As even he eventually admits:
     "Perhaps I have been a little overzealous ..."
     "Overzealous ? You've broken every rule in the book."
       And taking this case so personally, and going rogue, isn't just bad for his career-prospects:
In this case he has allowed his intuition, usually his greatest asset, to turn to emotion, to recklessness, to blind anger.
       And yet his intuition is strong enough that almost from the start he can't help but think that something isn't quite right about all this. The narrative occasionally briefly gives voice to Anne's assailant, who gloats early on already: "I'm three steps ahead of him, and I plan to keep it that way", so readers are aware that Verhœven is being played -- but just what the game is only falls into place well into the story.
       The botched jewelry heist has all the hallmarks of a Vincent Hafner-job, and Camille sensibly focuses all his attention on hunting down the dangerous man. Not realizing that's exactly what he's supposed to do .....
       As in the previous two volumes, Lemaitre revels in close description of great violence, with Camille beginning with a detailed, almost slow-motion, frame-by-frame description of the battering Anne takes, a bloody wallow where even he has to admit: "It is unendurable, literally unendurable" -- and yet he drags his readers and Verhœven and Anne painfully, slowly through it. Things also quickly turn rather unbelievable, from Verhœven commandeering the case to the criminal mastermind's true plan, which begins with rather spectacularly disposing of his henchmen.
       Divided into three parts, each covering the span of a day in the investigation (if one can call Verhœven's blindly barreling ahead and abusing police resources 'investigating' ...), subdivided into sections marking the passage of time, Lemaitre's presentation gives a countdown-quality to the story -- will Verhœven catch the mastermind before he gets Anne ? will Verhœven solve the case before he's pulled from it and all his police duties ? And Lemaitre redeems himself and his story somewhat with a decent twist or two, revealing that little is what it originally seemed. Of course, it is all ridiculously far-fetched -- but given how over-the-top everything in this fast and furious book is, that only seems right.
       Beyond that, Lemaitre already showed in Irène how ruthless he can be with the ones Verhœven loves -- and he just twists the knife here further. The lone wolf detective, battered and bruised by life, is a familiar figure in dark crime fiction, but Lemaitre is not just willing but eager to take that, too, to extremes.
       It all doesn't stand up to much scrutiny, but Lemaitre's fast-paced and violent story is almost all just visceral blur anyway -- but held together by its neatly plotted twists. Camille isn't, at any level, first-rate, but it does the second-rate exceptionally well; it's not a pleasant thriller, but it's a pretty gripping read and offers the necessary satisfactions.

- M.A.Orthofer, 30 May 2015

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Camille: Reviews: Other books by Pierre Lemaitre under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Pierre Lemaitre was born in 1951.

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© 2015-2021 the complete review

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