Joel Dicker is a Swiss author and this book was first published in 2014 in French, luckily enough it was a best seller and has since been published around the world and has sold more than two million copies. I didn't buy my copy I was lucky that a friend didn't fancy it and offered it to me, having read the back cover I was some what sceptical and understood why my friend didn't read it. Set in a quiet town North of New York in 1975 and on into 2008 it states there on the back cover that Harry a struggling author in his thirties falls for a fifteen year old girl, Nola Kellergan and thirty odd years later her body is dug up from his yard/garden, he is the only suspect.
- Joel Dicker
Now the author of this book has written a very very clever story where Harry Quebert who lives in New York and has written one book decides to move to a quiet town in order to get inspiration for his next novel, he is suffering from “writers block“ and is really struggling to get anything down on paper, so he finds himself renting an old house on the beach front a few hours North of New York in a town called Somerset. He takes lunch at a local diner and it's there he sees a young waitress Nola, and although she looks like a young woman it transpires that she is only 15 years old, poor Harry is smitten as is Nola and so they form a relationship of forms, however don't worry, there is no sex between the two of them and as the story unfolds the fact that she is only fifteen is all part and parcel of the story and it really couldn't work if she were older.
So Harry is a struggling author in 1975. The book fast forwards to the late 90's and Harry who is a very successful writer is now a college professor lecturing in English at a university where our third main character is introduced, Marcus Goldman a student who turns out to become a writer and follows in Harry's footsteps, the two become good friends.
After writing his first novel Marcus is a success and forgets about Harry a year goes by, Marcus is enjoying life partying in New York and a deadline is approaching from Goldmans publisher who wants evidence of his second book, a book that hasn't even got a first page let alone a title! In desperation Marcus contacts Harry who invites him up to Somerset where the pair of them talk about the past. and Harry tries to inspire Marcus into writing his second book. This book then somehow becomes a story within a story, the details that the author, Dicker goes into is very detailed and all this comes out later in the book so if you are reading the book and find the first 100 - 200 pages a bit hard going do not give up, I actually found it rather good it sets the foundations for what is to come, your really do get to know the characters inside and out as the story moves between 1975 and the late 90's and eventually into the mid 2000's.
So as stated there we are in 1975, in Somerset New Hampshire, Quebert finally finishes his book “The Origin of Evil“. Which turns out to be a huge success and propels Harry into literature stardom, his book outsells everything and Harry although now a successful writer and rich is lonely and extremely sad. Nola who he met at the local diner where she worked at weekends as a waitress and whom Harry fell in love with has disappeared, a massive police hunt reveals nothing and over the years the case is closed, she disappeared on the day they were to elope to Canada. Harry is in despair and for thirty three years he loves no other woman as he waits for Nola to return. One day in 1998 he decides to plant roses and so hires a garden centre to plant rose bushes, the gardening work begins and the workers are horrified when they come across human bones.
The bones are quickly identified as a young female and they are eventually positively identified as the missing girl from all those years ago, Nola Kellergan, Harry is the only suspect but why would he kill the love of his life? Why would he bury her in his own garden and then get some one to dig a trench to plant roses where he had buried her? Had he forgotten over the years? There are no other suspects and although Harry argues his innocence all the evidence points directly at him. Harry Quebert the famous writer and university lecturer is under arrest and facing charges of murder and kidnapping, charges that see him staring at Death Row should he be convicted.
Marcus and the rest of the world are shocked to find Harry Quebert has made headline news for all the wrong reasons and so Marcus who is getting it in the neck regarding his second book disappears up to Somerset to meet Quebert's lawyer and to meet Harry in prison. Listening to Harry Marcus is convinced that Harry is innocent, he seeks out the investigating police office and starts talking to the locals about the story of Nola and her life and thus starts a mission to clear his friend of all charges. He battles with Sgt Gahalowood the officer leading the investigation and eventually gains his trust and respect and the two of them continue investigating the mystery as to why Harry would bury the girl on his property and then get strangers to dig in the same spot!
Now as this epic story is over 600 pages long this review could go on and on, but that would obviously give too much away. I haven't started to introduce half the characters in this book as Marcus talks to all and sundry in the town. As I said this really is a novel within a novel within a novel and I loved it. I was rather sad when I finished it as I closed the book I thought, “there really is a story going on within those pages“.
The whole story has more twists than a plate of spaghetti, but each twist is believable, no very believable. Well worth a trip to the library, I would even recommend buying it, but only if you like a detailed long read. I'll give this five mushroom heads out of five, no doubt about it a great read that will keep you up night after night!