Baudelaire's Revenge by Bob Van Laerhoven
Publication Date: April 15, 2014
Formats: eBook, Hardcover
Genre: Historical Mystery/Thriller
It is 1870, and Paris is in turmoil.
As the social and political turbulence of the Franco-Prussian War roils the city, workers starve to death while aristocrats seek refuge in orgies and seances. The Parisians are trapped like rats in their beautiful city but a series of gruesome murders captures their fascination and distracts them from the realities of war. The killer leaves lines from the recently deceased Charles Baudelaire's controversial anthology Les Fleurs du Mal on each corpse, written in the poet's exact handwriting. Commissioner Lefevre, a lover of poetry and a veteran of the Algerian war, is on the case, and his investigation is a thrilling, intoxicating journey into the sinister side of human nature, bringing to mind the brooding and tense atmosphere of Patrick Susskind's Perfume. Did Baudelaire rise from the grave? Did he truly die in the first place? The plot dramatically appears to extend as far as the court of the Emperor Napoleon III.
A vivid, intelligent, and intense historical crime novel that offers up some shocking revelations about sexual mores in 19th century France, this superb mystery illuminates the shadow life of one of the greatest names in poetry.
I am going to keep this pretty short because honestly, this book is really hard for me to review. I was so excited to read it when I first saw it, but I didn't love it quite as much as I expected to. The story was very intriguing, but for me, it was confusing at times. It took me a little bit to get into it, once Bouveraux started reading the memoirs I started to enjoy it more. I think it's because it was written in first person and in those sections it's was clear what was happening.
It's nearly impossible for me to explain the plot! It's a murder mystery, but it's darker and full of twists and turns. Some you will see coming and some will hit you right out of the blue. I felt like the ending was a little rushed. There was all this build up and then it's just over and I was still left with some questions once the book was done. I did like the setting and I know that historically it's accurate to the time. Obviously the Baudelaire story line is fiction, but very entertaining nonetheless.
I will warn you that this story is very dark. The murders are quite gruesome in nature and there are some pretty explicit descriptions of the sexual practices of the time and place in which it's set. The chapters are short so they are quick to read. The author does jump around a lot not only from character to character, but also in time and this is what confused me. I also think that maybe part of the confusion comes from the translation from Dutch to English. Overall I did end up enjoying it and if you like a dark, gritty read you may enjoy it as well.
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Bob Van Laerhoven became a full-time author in 1991 and has written more than thirty books in Holland and Belgium. The context of his stories isn’t invented behind his desk, rather it is rooted in personal experience. As a freelance travel writer, for example, he explored conflicts and trouble-spots across the globe from the early 1990s to 2005. Echoes of his experiences on the road also trickle through in his novels. Somalia, Liberia, Sudan, Gaza, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar… to name but a few.
During the Bosnian war, Van Laerhoven spent part of 1992 in the besieged city of Sarajevo. Three years later he was working for MSF - Doctors without frontiers - in the Bosnian city of Tuzla during the NATO bombings. At that moment the refugees arrived from the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica. Van Laerhoven was the first writer from the Low Countries to be given the chance to speak to the refugees. His conversations resulted in a travel book: Srebrenica. Getuigen van massamoord – Srebrenica. Testimony to a Mass Murder. The book denounces the rape and torture of the Muslim population of this Bosnian-Serbian enclave and is based on first-hand testimonies. He also concludes that mass murders took place, an idea that was questioned at the time but later proven accurate.
All these experiences contribute to Bob Van Laerhoven’s rich and commendable oeuvre, an oeuvre that typifies him as the versatile author of novels, travel stories, books for young adults, theatre pieces, biographies, poetry, non-fiction, letters, columns, articles... He is also a prize-winning author: in 2007 he won the Hercule Poirot Prize for best thriller of the year with his novel De Wraak van Baudelaire – Baudelaire’s Revenge.
For more information please visit Bob Van Laerhoven's website. You can also connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.