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Authors: Pierre Lemaitre


BOOK: Irene
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Cover Page

Title Page

Copyright Page


Translator’s Note


Part I

Monday, April 7, 2003

Tuesday, April 8

Wednesday, April 9

Thursday, April 10

Friday, April 11

Saturday, April 12 and Sunday, April 13

Monday, April 14

Tuesday, April 15

Wednesday, April 16

Thursday, April 17

Friday, April 18

Saturday, April 19

Monday, April 21

Tuesday, April 22

Wednesday, April 23

Thursday, April 24

Part II

Chapter 1


Acknowledging Debts

About the Author

Pierre Lemaitre


Translated from the French by
Frank Wynne

First published in the French language as
Travail soigné
by Jean-Claude Lattès in 2006
First published in Great Britain in 2014 by

MacLehose Press
An imprint of Quercus
55 Baker Street
7th Floor, South Block

Copyright © 2006 Pierre Lemaitre et Éditions du Masque,
departmente des editions Jean-Claude Lattès, 2006
English translation copyright © 2014 by Frank Wynne


American Psycho
© 1991 by Bret Easton Ellis. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Black Dahlia
by James Ellroy.
Published by Century. Reprinted by permission of The Random House Group Limited.

by William McIlvanney.
First published in Great Britain in 1997 by Hodder and Stoughton Ltd.
Published in Great Britain in 2013 by Canongate Books Ltd, 14 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1TE.

© Sjöwall & Wahlöö. Reprinted by permission of the Salomonsson Agency on behalf
of Maj Sjöwall and the Per Wahlöö Estate.

The moral right of Pierre Lemaitre to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

Frank Wynne asserts his moral right to be identified as the translator of the work.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

ISBN (HB) 978 0 85705 288 9
ISBN (TPB) 978 0 85705 289 6
ISBN (Ebook) 978 1 78206 811 2

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organisations, places and events are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

You can find this and many other great books at:

Also by Pierre Lemaitre in English translation

For Pascaline
For my father

The writer is someone who arranges quotes and removes the quotation marks

Roland Barthes

Translator’s Note

The judicial system in France is fundamentally different to that in the United Kingdom and the U.S.A. Rather than the adversarial system, where police investigate and the role of the courts is to act as an impartial referee between prosecution and defence, in the French inquisitorial system the judiciary work with the police on the investigation, appointing an independent
juge d’instruction
entitled to question witnesses, interrogate suspects, and manage all aspects of the police investigation. If there is sufficient evidence, the case is referred to the
, the public prosecutor who decides whether to bring charges. The
juge d’instruction
plays no role in the eventual trial and is prohibited from adjudicating future cases involving the same defendant.

The French have two national police forces: the
police nationale
(formerly called the
), a civilian police force with jurisdiction in cities and large urban areas, and the
gendarmerie nationale
, a branch of the French Armed Forces, responsible both for public safety and for policing towns with populations of fewer than 20,000. Since the
rarely has the resources to conduct complex investigations, the
police nationale
maintains regional criminal investigations services (
police judiciaire
) analogous to the British C.I.D., and also oversees armed response units (


Commissaire divisionnaire
– Chief Superintendent (U.K.)/Police Chief (U.S.), with both administrative and investigative roles

– Detective Chief Inspector

) – a rank roughly equivalent to Sergeant

. (
Recherche, Assistance, Intervention, Dissuasion
) – a special operations tactical unit of the French
police nationale

Brigade criminelle
– equivalent to the Murder/Homicide and Serious Crime Squad, handling murders, kidnappings and assassinations and reporting to the
police judiciaire
, equivalent of the British C.I.D.

– similar to a Crown Prosecutor in the U.K., addressed as
as one might say “sir”, or “your honour”

Juge d’instruction
– the “investigating judge” has a role somewhat similar to that of an American District Attorney, addressed as
monsieur le juge/madame la juge

Identité judiciaire
– forensics department of the
police nationale

Le Parquet
– Public Prosecutor’s office

– inner ring-road circumscribing central Paris, linking the old city gates or
, e.g. porte d’Italie, porte d’Orleans

Monday, April 7, 2003

“Alice …” he said, looking at what anyone else would have called a young girl.

He used her name as a sign of complicity but could not make the slightest dent in her armour. He looked down at the notes scribbled by Armand during the first interview: Alice Vandenbosch, 24. He tried to imagine what 24-year-old Alice Vandenbosch normally looked like. She was probably a young woman with a long, slim face, sandy hair, honest eyes. What he saw when he looked up seemed completely improbable. The girl was nothing like herself: her hair, once blonde, was plastered to her skull and dark at the roots; her face had a sickly pallor, a large purple bruise on her right cheek, thin threads of dried blood at one corner of her mouth … all that was human in her wild, frantic eyes was fear, a fear so terrible she was still shivering as though she had gone out on a winter’s day without a coat. She clutched the plastic coffee cup with both hands, like a lifeline.

Usually, when Camille Verhœven stepped into a room, even the coolest of customers reacted. Not Alice. Alice was shut away inside herself, trembling.

It was 8.30 a.m.

A few minutes earlier, when he had arrived at the
brigade criminelle
, Camille had felt tired. Dinner the night before had gone on until 1 a.m. People he did not know, friends of Irène. They had talked about television, told stories that Camille might have found quite funny, but for the fact that he was sitting opposite a woman who reminded him of his mother. All through the meal he had tried to dispel the image, but it was uncanny: the same stare, the same mouth, the same cigarettes smoked one after the other. Camille had found himself swept back twenty years to a blessed time when his mother would emerge from her studio wearing a smock smeared with paint, a cigarette dangling from her lips, her hair dishevelled. A time when he would still go to watch her work. She was an Amazon. Solid and focused, with a furious brushstroke. She lived so much inside her head that sometimes she did not seem to notice his presence. Long, silent periods back when he had loved painting, back when he watched her every movement as though it might be the key to some mystery that concerned him personally. That was before. Before the serried ranks of cigarettes declared open war on her, but long after they caused the foetal hypotrophy that marked Camille’s birth. At the time, drawing himself up to his full height – he would never be taller than four foot eleven – Camille did not know which he hated more, the mother whose toxic habit had fashioned him into a kind of pale, slightly less deformed copy of Toulouse-Lautrec, or the meek, powerless father who gazed at his wife with pathetic admiration, as though at his own reflection in a mirror: at sixteen he was already a man, though not in stature. While his mother accumulated canvases in her studio and his laconic father worked at the pharmacy, Camille learned what it meant to be short. As
he grew older, he stopped desperately trying to stand on tiptoe, got used to looking at others from below, gave up trying to reach shelves without fetching a stool, laid out his personal space like a doll’s house. And this diminutive man would survey, without really understanding, the vast canvases his mother had to roll up in order to take them to gallery owners. Sometimes his mother would say, “Camille, come here a minute …” Sitting on a stool, she would silently run her fingers through his hair and Camille knew that he loved her; at times he thought he would never love anyone else.

Those were the good times, Camille thought over dinner as he stared at the woman sitting opposite who laughed raucously, drank little and smoked like a chimney. The time before his mother spent her days kneeling next to her bed, resting her cheek on the blankets, the only position in which the cancer gave her a little respite. Illness had brought her to her knees. And though by now each found the other unfathomable, this was the first time that they could look at each other eye to eye. At the time, Camille had sketched a lot, spending long hours in his mother’s now deserted studio. When he decided to go into her room he would find his father, who now also spent half his life on his knees, pressed against his wife, his arm around her shoulders, saying nothing, breathing to the same rhythm as her. Camille was left alone. Camille sketched. Camille killed time and he waited.

By the time he went to law school, his mother weighed as little as one of her paintbrushes. Whenever he came home, his father seemed cloaked in a heavy silence of grief. The whole thing dragged on. And Camille bent his permanently childlike body over his law books and waited for it to end.

It arrived on a May day like any other. The telephone call might
almost have been from a stranger. His father said simply, “You should probably come home.” And he knew straight away that from then on he would have to make his own way in the world, that there would never be anyone else.

At forty, this short, bald man with his long, furrowed face knew that this was not true, now that Irène had come into his life. But all these visions from the past had made for an exhausting evening. Besides, game had never really agreed with him.

It was at about the time he was bringing Irène her breakfast on a tray that Alice had been picked up by a squad car on the boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle.

“In ten minutes,” said Camille, “I want you to come and tell me you’ve found Marco. And that he’s in a bad way.”

“Found Marco …?” Armand was puzzled. “Where?”

“What the fuck do I know, just make it happen.”

With short, swift strides, Camille scuttered back to his office.

“So,” he said as he came towards Alice, “Let’s take it again from the beginning.”

He stood facing her, they were almost eye to eye. Alice seemed to wake from her trance. She stared at him as though seeing him for the first time and must have felt more keenly than ever how ridiculous the world was; two hours earlier she had been beaten up, her body was a mass of bruises, now here she sat in the
brigade criminelle
staring at a man no more than four foot eleven tall who was suggesting they start again from the beginning, as though this nightmare had a beginning.

BOOK: Irene
2.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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