Marcus Goldman may be a best-selling novelist, but he suffers from a serious case of writers block. He needs a murder and a mentor to set him free.
Meet the hero of Swiss author Joel Dicker’s bestselling crime thriller The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair.
With a deadline for his next book imminent, Goldman can’t write a single sentence. Desperately seeking inspiration, he contacts his old college professor, Harry Quebert, considered “one of the greatest authors of the second half of the twentieth century.”
Quebert’s fiction masterpiece, The Origin of Evil, made millions and catapulted the author to international literary stardom. Despite his fame, Quebert lives a reclusive existence in a creaky old house in an obscure New Hampshire town. He has one friend—Goldman—and that’s who he calls from prison after arrest on suspicion of murder. Authorities believe Quebert killed Nola Kellergan, a 15-year-old girl who disappeared 33 years ago. Landscapers uncover the girl’s bones on Quebert’s property alongside a typed manuscript of The Origin of Evil.
Quebert may be a prime suspect, but it turns out he and Nola were lovers—not passing-fancy, younger girl/older man type lovers, but deeply consumed and committed amours planning to run away and live together forever.
Would Quebert really have killed his heart and soul? And if he didn’t kill Nola Kellergan, who did?
Enter Goldman. The writer feels an internal dam begin to crack. He says hello to a new book, bye-bye to writer’s block.
Goldman’s greedy publishers, of course, stand ready to fork over millions of dollars in advances for The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair, Goldman’s proposed book. It promises to be a bigger blockbuster than his first, and audiences across the nation salivate, impatient for a ripping good read.
Goldman’s words flow. Then, as he digs deeper into the steamy secrets of that seemingly idyllic New Hampshire town, the writer discovers nearly everyone in the community has something to hide.
Everyone also seems to have a connection to Nola Kellergan.
Anyone could have killed her.
The 29-year-old author Joel Dicker holds a Masters degree in Law from the University of Geneva, Switzerland, but writing’s apparently been more his thing. He started at age 10, and at age 25 won a Prix des Ecrivains Genevois, Geneva’s prestigious writing award for unpublished manuscripts.
He published his 600-page Harry Quebert Affair in September 2012. Just a few months later, he won the Grand Prix du Roman de l’Académie Francaise. This and other awards have made him one of Europe’s young literary superstars.
Dicker’s knack for creating suspense keeps his opus loping along. He shows an incredible knack for innocuously placed red herrings—a letter here, a painting there, an old tin box, a hotel bill. What do these artifacts mean? Are they clues to the unsolved murder?
Dicker shifts his setting between 1975, the year of Nola’s murder, and 2008, when Goldman investigates the case and begins writing his book. A’ la the early ‘90s TV show Twin Peaks, readers must keep guessing a town’s sordid secrets, revealed by one quirky character after another. Dicker introduces a motorcycle-loving Southern preacher with a righteous taste for loud rock music. We find a gentle giant with a deformed face and a speech impediment. Up the street lives a local socialite hooked on sleeping pills, and a couple of towns away a wealthy philanthropist, possibly gay, with strange motives.
Dicker reads mostly fast and to the point … with a few problem spots to discuss later in the review. He uses simple prose that does not distract from the reading of a complicated story. As Dicker unveils each character’s connections to Nola and Quebert, he exposes multiple, complex layers of Nola’s own history and personality (she’s pretty weird).