LONGLISTED FOR THE CWA INTERNATIONAL DAGGER 2018
Antoine is twelve years old. His parents are divorced and he lives with his mother in Beauval, a small, backwater town surrounded by forests, where everyone knows everyone's business, and nothing much ever happens. But in the last days of 1999, a series of events unfolds, culminating in the shocking vanishing without trace of a young child. The adults of the town are at a loss to explain the disappearance, but for Antoine, it all begins with the violent death of his neighbour's dog. From that one brutal act, his fate and the fate of his neighbour's six year old son are bound forever.
In the years following Rémi's disappearance, Antoine wrestles with the role his actions played. As a seemingly inescapable net begins to tighten, breaking free from the suffocating environs of Beauval becomes a gnawing obsession. But how far does he have to run, and how long will it take before his past catches up with him again?
Translated from the French by Frank Wynne
Lemaitre's searing novel of psychological suspense rests on a terrible tragedy: in 1999, in the French village of Beauval, an angry 12-year-old, Antoine Courtin, hits a little boy, R mi Desmedt, with a tree branch, accidentally killing him. Terrified, Antoine hides R mi's body and is wracked with guilt as the people of Beauval desperately hunt for the boy they believe was stolen by a stranger. Twelve years later, Antoine has settled in Paris, where he's a successful doctor working in humanitarian aid and engaged to be married, though he's still haunted by what he did to R mi. On a reluctant visit back to Beauval, a sexual encounter with a childhood crush and news of local redevelopment threaten to destroy his carefully constructed life. From Antoine's inner torment, Lemaitre (Blood Wedding) devises an unusual page-turner, driven not by the cause-and-event of incident but the push-and-pull of guilt and memory, which spins toward a final revelation that leaves the reader with stark questions about punishment, culpability, and the psychic consequences of long-held secrets.