Friday, May 10, 2013

Verdict of Nine

They called Michel Delupas “The Surgeon”. He was a medical student turned serial killer, and he murdered his victims with the aid of a scalpel. Fortunately, he was caught and justice prevailed: a jury of his peers brought in a verdict of “Guilty” and The Surgeon has been behind bars ever since. That is, until he was finally released…

Delupas is a deranged psychopath on a mission. According to his twisted worldview, society has done him wrong and he needs to shift the balance back onto his side. And what better way to do that than by killing off the members of the jury that convicted him, one by one? It’s what happens in René Reouven’s Mort au jury (Death to the Jury).

This is a fascinating book. I like some serial killer novels: the more psychological take bores me to tears, but the intellectual take on the serial-killer-with-a-pattern has always interested me. Reouven goes with the intellectual take, but this is also an exciting story. You know from the first who is behind the murders, and you see the case slowly take shape. You don’t spend too much time inside the killer’s head, and that helps to make him seem like a more genuine threat. Not only that, this is a short read at about 150 pages. You dive right into the action and are treated to a fine story, one that manages to keep you guessing.

It’s also a very short read. While it helps with the excitement, it means that some characters remain sketched in. This is particularly evident with Madame Muss-Leduran, who is a walking-talking plot device. She shows up on stage every once in a while, delivers her exposition, and walks off complaining about her weak heart. To be fair, it does work for this book, and I for one think that novels these days are often far too padded. So it’s a bit of a relief to see an author decide that Character X can remain a sketch instead of boring us with 50 pages of their dull life story.

There’s not too much more to say about this one. It’s a solid read and I dare not describe more of its story for fear of spoiling it. Unfortunately there is no English translation, but it has been translated into other languages… among them Polish, surprisingly enough! (The translation appears under the title Ostrze Lancetu, which roughly means “The Blade of the Lancet”.) I know there are many people out there who can speak another language, so if you can find this book in your language, go ahead and read it. It’s a wonderful introduction to René Reouven and his strengths in plotting. Heck, if you can find anything of Reouven’s, you pretty much can’t go wrong. I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece but I do call it one helluva good read.

Note: The author very kindly autographed my copy of the book. For this reason, it’s one of my most treasured books. Have I mentioned I’m a big fan of René Reouven?

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