Best Book of 2013

This is my last post for the year. I’ve read a lot of books, mostly early hardboiled novels and noir. However, out of the handful of books published in 2013 that I read, only one was memorable and worth mentioning again. And guess what? It’s not Nesbø this year even though I thought Police was really good but more of the same.

No, I am highlighting a book that me to was original, well written and had twists that changed the story more than once. A story that was a suspense-ridden, high-octane page-turner.

Book cover for Alex by Pierre Lemaitre shows a young woman with the words "Alex" stretched across the front of her face in blue background
ALEX, CWA International Dagger 2013 Award Winner

ALEX by Pierre Lemaitre and translated  by Frank Wynne was brutal, engrossing and well written with twists and turns even down to the last page. I mentioned brutal because the beginning is tough to read but once I got past the first handful of chapters the story took a dramatic turn and that’s when things really picked up and I couldn’t put it down.

Most of the criticism directed at ALEX is about how violent it is. There’s nothing I can say to dispute this. I remember reading a post by Ann Cleeves (author of the Shetland series and Vera Stanhope series) about violence in crime fiction in general and she mentioned her blurbing ALEX and enjoying the story despite the violent first few chapters:

Lemaitre’s ALEX, which I admire immensely, is horribly gruesome at the beginning of the book, and I’ve blurbed a novel with a first chapter that made me wince, because the writing was so good.

The writing is good and I’m happy to pick ALEX as one of my best crime fiction reads of 2013.

27 thoughts on “Best Book of 2013

  1. Keishon – I’m very glad you liked this as much as you did. I have to admit, gruesome violence is a major strike against a book for me, but I’m glad you were able to find so much to love about this one.

  2. You know what I’m going to ask: Is that opening scene, or any of the others, from the killer’s perspective? When you say something is the best, I am more than interested to read it.

  3. Wow. That sounds terrific, although the violence gives me pause (I am a wuss). But I will definitely read the sample. As Darlynne says, if you say something is the best, I’m at least giving it a try.

    1. I admit that this won’t be to everyone’s taste. Reading a sample is a great idea. The sample gives you a good idea of the pace, tone of the story.

  4. Aah that is the second great recommendation for Alex – I think it’s going right to the top of my Christmas list and I only hope I’ve been good enough! Thanks ;-)

  5. I’m excited to give Alex a try. It sounds like it may be similar to Roger Smith. I’m always hesitant to recommend him because his stuff is so brutal, but brilliantly so. His book Sacrifices and Belinda Bauer’s Rubbernecker are my top 2 for the year.

  6. It’s great that you highlighted the ONE best book of this year. I am going to look out for this one. Violence doesn’t bother me much.

    1. Hi Nish, violence doesn’t bother me much either. Hope you’ll give this one a shot. I read it in January of this year and it has stayed with me.

  7. Keishon, I was glad to see this. Up to now the book descriptions and reviews I read did stress the tension and the violence, and I was not sure I could handle it. But so many reviewers did like the book. Having seen your review, I am tempted to give it a try, although it will be a while before I will purchase a copy. I missed your review in March. Now I think I need to go back and check out all your other reviews in March and see what I missed.

    1. Hi Tracy, this is just one of those great reads that has a lot of violence in it. I know I winced a few times but the overall story and twists trumped the violence for me.

  8. I suppose I ought to join the party and read the thing, but I keep ignoring it. The violence probably won’t bother me, maybe one of my best books next year then?

  9. Duly noted, Keishon. As I’m digging out old stuff on my Kindle I see that I still have Bed of Nails, one of your picks from a year ago, waiting for me too. I really should page through my ebook listings more often!

  10. Keishon, according to Goodreads Alex is book 2 of a trilogy, I understand why they often publish out of order with translations but it is bothersome.

    1. Hi Chris,

      Thanks for the info. I didn’t realize it was the second book in a trilogy until after the fact and yes it is very bothersome. But honestly, it didn’t read like it was apart of a series at all so it stands alone very well.

  11. Interesting choice, Keishon. I actually stopped reading the book because of the first chapter but maybe a should give it another go sometime.

    1. Hi Sarah,

      I don’t know…if the ideas and writing didn’t trump the violence then this book probably isn’t for you. Keep in mind that I only read a handful of 2013 titles and out of that bunch this book stuck out the most even though I read it at the beginning of the year. Tx.

  12. Hiya – I am SO delighted you have chosen this book and given it the kudos it deserves. I devour crime fiction and this is the one book I read during 2013 that has really haunted me – it was truly shocking and I was not expecting it to turn out the way it did. The violence was brutal, but it had to be – without giving anything away, the plot wouldn’t be believable without these extremes.
    I wish you another year of fulfilling reading!

    1. Amyblakeney: thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts on this book. I’m always glad to hear from other fans and I agree with everything you said about the story. I wish YOU another great year of reading as well and hope to hear from you again. Thank you.

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