The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair, by Swiss author Joel Dicker, may not tell the truth about anything, so prepare to feel cleverly fooled and marvelously misled while reading this skillful, humorous, multilayered dissection of honesty, fame, misperception, obsession and murder.

In 1975 a teenage girl goes missing in a small town in New Hampshire. In 2008 her long-buried body is discovered on well-known novelist Harry Quebert’s property, and Harry is arrested. Harry’s former student and longtime friend, Marcus Goldman, also a best-selling novelist, is currently suffering from writer’s block. He comes to New Hampshire to support his friend and to try to unravel the crime (and maybe write a new bestseller in the process).

Marcus has discovered that he’s been able to create an illusion of excellence around his accomplishments: “All that was needed was to distort the way others perceived me; in the end, everything was a question of appearances.” This powerful theme runs throughout the book, as readers must choose among a plethora of surface appearances and decide what may lie beneath. A letter is posted; a manuscript moves from person to person; bruises bloom on a woman’s body; a black Chevrolet Monte Carlo whisks on and off the scene; a couple make plans to meet and run away together. None of these actions have a one-dimensional explanation. Rather than peeling away the story’s layers, each element becomes another viewpoint to confuse or betray.

What is the real truth about the Harry Quebert affair? This contemporary yet classic whodunit puts readers through the wringer—it’s a brainteaser par excellence. Succeeding chapters, cleverly reverse-numbered, offer ever more plausible scenarios for events that occurred in the summer of 1975, as revisited through official reports, eyewitness accounts and excerpts from the novels embedded in this tale. Events are presented as fact, and then appear chapters later in a totally different light, contradicting what came before. What’s behind Harry’s Lolita-like infatuation? Is Nola actually sweet and innocent? Are the police concealing evidence? What motivates Luther, the troubled chauffeur?

All this could get to be a bit much. But sit back, read Harry’s 31 rules for writers, and decide for yourself the truth behind this clever, confounding affair.

comments powered by Disqus