A mental landscape of guilt and terror

World Crime Atlas is my retirement project to read a crime novel set in every country in The Times Atlas of the World, concentrating on the sense of place created by the author.

FRANCE

Three Days and a Life, by Pierre Lemaitre, Translated by Frank Wynne.

Plot: Antoine, aged 12, lives in a provincial town. In the last days of the departing century, a series of events unfolds, starting with the violent death of his neighbour’s dog, that inextricably links the fate of Antoine and the neighbour’s six-year-old son.

When and Where: The novel is divided in three parts, set in 1999, 2011, and 2015. The town of Beauval is set in a “region of lush, dense woodland which moved to its own slow, ineluctable rhythms.”

Sense of Place: Beauval is one of those small towns where “nothing ever happens”, and where people conform out of their desire for respectability in the eyes of their fellow townspeople; and where anyone who breaks this rigid code is regarded with hostility, suspicion, or contempt. The woods that surround the town are the setting for a shocking event; the death of a child (the killer’s identity is immediately revealed; this is not a ‘whodunnit?’ crime novel.) The physical appearance of the town and the all encompassing woods are well drawn, but the book is really describing the mental landscape of a guilt-ridden, terrified killer. Within this, there are memorable scenes of a Christmas Eve midnight mass, and of the twin storms that devastate the town which (“the landscape was changing fast, too fast”) mirror and act as a metaphor for the killer’s state of mind.

This is a very accomplished psychological study of the consequences of a shocking crime, both on the culprit and on the wider community.

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4 thoughts on “A mental landscape of guilt and terror

  1. Hi Geoff, I’m a bit of a IT novice and didn’t tick box on email and so didn’t get to this until today, after I sent another email via your main site. I’d live you to buy EBOLOWA at your local bookstore (hoping you’re lucky enough to still have one) after ordering it but the publishers haven’t arranged an ISBN number yet. It was supposed to be last week. It will be any time! Either way, I’m gearing up to send out ARCs (an online copy) if you’re interested – – and hopefully you’ll like it enough to want the paperback (due out a couple of weeks after the Online). Let me know. all the best, simon

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