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by Bernard Minier and Alison Anderson, trans.
Minotaur, December 2016
400 pages
ISBN: 1250106052

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This book is as twisty as it gets. Throughout the entire book, up until the last page, we know that a number of individuals have been manipulated by at least one deeply disturbed sociopath. However, assumptions about who is manipulating whom are constantly challenged, and the reader as well as Servaz, the investigator, is repeatedly thrown off balance. Minier is masterful at creating the constantly changing emotional landscape, drawing the reader in, providing a sense of confidence about the plot, and then pulling the rug out from under that understanding.

As the book opens, Servaz finds himself in a rest home where he is attempting to recover from the monstrous death of a loved one. He's officially off duty, but he has recovered enough to become unofficially involved in an investigation of a closed-case suicide when hints suggesting that the suicide was not as cut and dried as once thought start showing up in his mail. Servaz' nightmares give the reader some background as to why he is not on active duty. There are two main characters for the start of the book, and the other is Christine Steinmeyer, who also finds something unexpected in her mailbox. For her, the letter is the start of a downward spiral of manipulation, isolation, and terror with no sense of the perpetrator or his or her motivation. Servaz' attempt to discover the truth behind the suicide and Christine's attempt to protect herself eventually merge, after which the plot becomes even more tangled.

This is not a short book, although it feels like it. Once picked up, the plot is impossible to set aside. There are multiple possibilities for the master manipulator. As Christine fights the evil of her unseen adversary, she fundamentally changes, adding further confusion to the plot. Servaz becomes more and more sure of who that adversary is, but the reader is less so, and in the end it is not completely clear whether he was correct. Even the brutal death that Servaz is attempting to leave behind is called into question.

Minier's Servaz series (this is the third) demonstrates his skill at constructing extremely complex thrillers. The books are long, with many intertwined characters and with intricate plots. Characterization does not take second seat to plot, however. The reader can't help but care for Servaz given the burdens he bears. In this book, Christine takes center stage however. The psychology of victimization permeates the book, and the lack of clarity regarding victim and aggressor makes the plot both intensely engaging and impossibly troubling. When you read this book, be sure to give yourself some time…it is very hard to put down once started.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, November 2016

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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