Twists, Turns, and Turgid Prose: Dicker Defies the Thriller Stereotype
I cannot imagine, during word association games, that the words “literary” and “thriller” find themselves grouped together particularly often. Most thrillers are specifically engineered as page-turners best enjoyed on a beach or a plane. It is a rare occurrence (i.e., it has quite literally never happened to me) to sit down with friends and discuss the merits of the prose in the thriller of the moment. Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, The Girl Before, All the Missing Girls (this one, in particular, featured some of the worst writing I’ve come across in my entire life), Tangerine (my most recent thriller read, which was actually even worse than All the Missing Girls – no small feat), and multitudes of others in the genre also have the following three things in common: twists, turns, and turgid prose.
When my mother recommended I read The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair, I was expecting more of the same – especially since the last thriller she read and recommended to me, The Lake House, was – sorry, mom – painful to plow through. When I began the book, I was surprised to discover it lacked the markers of a traditional thriller – although a small-town diner featured heavily as a backdrop, a veritable requirement on the mystery checklist.
The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair (a goddamn mouthful; perhaps why it never picked up the steam it should’ve in the US), takes place between 1975 and present day. In 1975, a beautiful teen goes missing. Decades later, her body is found, in the backyard of world-renowned author Harry Quebert, along with one of his unpublished manuscripts. In the words of Peter Griffin in my favorite Family Guy episode, and the police in this book: GUILTYYYYYYY!!!!!
When Harry’s literary mentee, Marcus, discovers what has happened, he embarks on an obsessive quest to prove Harry’s innocence. Over the course of the book’s six hundred and sixty pages, author Joel Dicker takes the reader on a red-herring roller coaster; but, unlike the vast majority of today’s thrillers, neither the initial suspects, nor the final perpetrator come out of nowhere. The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair is a carefully considered crime novel, well worth a read for anyone looking to ignore their family and get lost in a book during the holiday season.
N.B.: The author, Joel Dicker, is QUITE handsome.