Author: Joel Dicker, 2012. Translated from the French by Sam Taylor, 2014.
Genre: Period/Contemporary Fiction. Mystery. Metafiction.
Other Details: Hardback. 624 pages.
August 30, 1975: the day fifteen-year-old Nola Kellergan is glimpsed fleeing through the woods, never to be heard from again; the day Somerset, New Hampshire, lost its innocence.
Thirty-three years later, Marcus Goldman, a successful young novelist, visits Somerset to see his mentor, Harry Quebert, one of the country’s most respected writers, and to find a cure for his writer’s block as his publisher’s deadline looms. But Marcus’s plans are violently upended when Harry is suddenly and sensationally implicated in the cold-case murder of Nola Kellergan—whom, he admits, he had an affair with. As the national media convicts Harry, Marcus launches his own investigation, following a trail of clues through his mentor’s books, the backwoods and isolated beaches of New Hampshire, and the hidden history of Somerset’s citizens and the man they hold most dear. To save Harry, his own writing career, and eventually even himself, Marcus must answer three questions, all of which are mysteriously connected: Who killed Nola Kellergan? What happened one misty morning in Somerset in the summer of 1975? And how do you write a book to save someone’s life? - synopsis from author's website.
I found this quite simply a magnificent novel, intelligent, intricately constructed and multi-layered. Aside from the compelling central mystery of 'Who Killed Nora Kellergan', with its echoes of Twin Peaks 'Who killed Laura Palmer?', the novel also takes a dark comic swipe at the publishing business that reminded me of The Silkworm.
Despite the history of a love affair between Nola and Quebert, Harry is no Humbert Humbert. He had been shocked by his attraction to Nola and initially endeavoured to keep her at a distance. Even thirty-three years later he does not deny to Marcus that Nora was under-age and accepts the censure that is aimed at him while protesting his innocence of her murder.
Although written by a Swiss writer in French it has many hallmarks of the 'Great American Novel' in its style and atmosphere including capturing the ambiance of small town America as well as the heady heights of New York. It is also meta-fiction using the style of a novel that contains within it a true crime account along with snippets of other novels and writing. There is a great deal of ambivalence within the novel about events and characters. It keeps the reader on their toes.
I initially borrowed the book from the library but once I started and realised that I loved it bought my own hardback copy. It is certainly a novel that I will be recommending widely.