With the final installment of the Camille Verhoeven trilogy, Pierre Lemaitre has permanently registered his name in the annals of the crime writers. Begun with the personal tragedy for Camille Verhoeven, the trilogy finishes the circle and concludes with the professional and personal calamity for Camille. Though the first two installments in the trilogy are named after the female protagonists, Irene and Alex, the final chapter is exclusively dedicated to Camille Verhoeven – the eccentric and celebrated detective whose razor-sharp crime deduction skills are once again put to test.
‘Imagine someone you love, someone who relies on you for protection, imagine watching them suffer, watching them die and feel yourself break out in a cold sweat. Now, go one step further and imagine in that moment of excruciating terror, this person crying out to you for help and you would wish you could die too.’
Thus, begins the intertwining story of Camille Verhoeven and Anne Forestier. Finding herself amidst the robbery at the Champs-Elysees, Anne is battered, beaten, shot and left to die on a street. Almost bludgeoned to death, Anne survives. Like Irene and Alex, Lemaitre creates the graphic and detailed description of violence and brutality when it comes to violence against women. Reveling in dark humor, the narrator goes on to describe the petrifying and chilling nature of violence, ‘Anne is no more than a rag now, a sack, a lifeless doll leaving a scarlet trail that quickly clots.’ And yet the violence continues.
Anne is not just another victim to Camille; she is his first ray of hope since Irene’s death, the one to give his life meaning. Not ready to lose her, Camille plunges right in the war zone. Determined to save her and not to let history repeat itself, he puts everything on risk. Pitted against the killer who is ready to go to any bounds to kill Anne, Camille ruffles the entire underworld of Paris, resolute to find the killer whose identity is revealed early in the book (which wavers the interest of the reader). However, Camille is alone this time – no Armand or Le Guen to back him up and there is new commissaire in town.
Unfolded in the period of three days, the book is divided into three parts. Day One narrates the mundane robbery escalating into single-minded pursuit to kill the innocent bystander. Day Two alternates between the past and the present. Like Alex, Anne also comes across as an enigmatic figure with quite a few skeletons in her closet and the narrator leaves the reader hanging in a limbo: Is Anne the ultimate victim or a perpetrator too? Day Three concludes the story and with that, the trilogy too.
Camille is not a story of Anne Forestier, though like Irene and Alex, she goes through harrowing violence but the final part focuses on Camille, his unresolved emotions, his guilt and his past. Though a range of characters figures in the novel – from criminals to police officers, yet they all remain the background and the author refuses to shift limelight to any other character even for a moment.
Like Irene and Alex, the reader picks up the final installment with huge anticipation and even though the book slowly picks up, it never reaches to the thrilling level of Alex which remains the most successful and nail biting amongst the three.
Despite being entertaining and gripping in parts, Camille turns out to be a slightly disappointing finale. Yet, it is a must-read for anyone who has followed the trilogy this far.