Publication Date: April 15, 2014
It is 1870, and Paris is in turmoil.
As the social and political turbulence of the Franco-Prussian War roils the
city, workers starve to death while aristocrats seek refuge in orgies and
seances. The Parisians are trapped like rats in their beautiful city but a
series of gruesome murders captures their fascination and distracts them from the realities of war. The killer leaves lines from the recently deceased
Charles Baudelaire’s controversial anthology Les Fleurs
du Mal on each corpse, written in the poet’s exact handwriting. Commissioner
Lefevre, a lover of poetry and a veteran of the Algerian war, is on the case,
and his investigation is a thrilling, intoxicating journey into the sinister
side of human nature, bringing to mind the brooding and tense atmosphere of
Patrick Susskind’s Perfume. Did Baudelaire rise from
the grave? Did he truly die in the first place? The plot dramatically appears to
extend as far as the court of the Emperor Napoleon III.
A vivid, intelligent, and intense historical crime novel that offers up some
shocking revelations about sexual mores in 19th century France, this superb
mystery illuminates the shadow life of one of the greatest names in poetry.
Praise for Baudelaire’s Revenge
“[An] intense historical crime thriller. The intricate plot, menacing
atmosphere, and rich evocations of period Paris have undeniable power.”
“Vigorous. A finely-tuned balancing act between style and content. Add to
all this the extremely convincingly painted tragic characters and the multitude
of mysterious figures, and what you get is a winner who gives added luster to
this jubilee edition of the Hercule Poirot Prize.” (The jury of the Hercule
“Van Laerhoven packs much complexity into 256 pages, giving this historical
mystery the heft of a far longer work ( …) The book’s main preoccupation is the
conclusive demonstration that everyone is guilty of something—the only mystery
is, to what degree? The flowers of evil, sketched in lurid botanical detail…”
“(A) decadent tale….Commissioner Lefèvre’s philosophical discussions with
artists and poets and a creepy Belgian dwarf are fascinating….” (NY Times Book
“Published for the first time in English, this roman policier isn’t so much
a straight detective story (although there are two detectives in it) as an
evocation of a mind-set that now seems extravagant: the 19th-century poet’s
fascination with sex and death. It’s no wonder this title won the Hercule
Poirot Prize: the author is Belgian, as is the prize, and the twisted plot is
as complicated as Agatha Christie’s most convoluted mystery. Mystery
aficionados will love this pastiche of Wilkie Collins and Edgar Allan Poe.”
“(A) gritty, detail-rich historical mystery novel involves the reader in a
subtle narrative web. This complex mystery from an award-winning Belgian author
joins history and literary history to create a sly, smart revenge tale.” (Shelf Awareness Pro)
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"Death. Baudelaire told me there was only one thing in life he respected. The end."
In Baudelaire's Revenge I was thrown into the turmoil of 1870's Paris, on the brink of the Franco-Prussian war. Commissioner Lefevre is charged with investigating a strange and shocking set of murders. Interestingly enough, all of the murders and victims seem to have a tie to the recently deceased poet, Charles Baudelaire. The intensity and passion of the murders increase with each victim and Lefevre begins to connect the dots to an unlikely suspect that may also want to kill him.
Intelligent and intriguing Baudelaire's Revenge was a historical mystery that not only had me hooked, but forced me to pay close attention as I read. I wasn't quite expecting the sensuous and seedy nature of some of the characters, but it really added to the uniqueness of what drove them to their actions. Written from several different points of view, the characters that gripped me the most were Lefevre and the suspected killer. Lefevre's memoirs of the Algerian war gripped me and his memories of that time were fascinating; this gave great depth to his character, actions and body of knowledge. Without giving any spoilers. the writing from one of the suspects point of view was what I found myself looking forward the most. Their story was surprising, sad and a lewd...but I couldn't tear myself away. As the book was wrapping up, I thought I had the mystery all figured out; however, Van Laerhoven has thrown in a few unexpected loops right at the end which made for an exciting closing.
Bob Van Laerhoven became a full-time author in 1991 and has written more
than thirty books in Holland and Belgium. The context of his stories isn’t
invented behind his desk, rather it is rooted in personal experience. As a
freelance travel writer, for example, he explored conflicts and trouble-spots
across the globe from the early 1990s to 2005. Echoes of his experiences on the road also trickle through in his novels. Somalia, Liberia, Sudan, Gaza, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar… to name but a few.
During the Bosnian war, Van Laerhoven spent part of 1992 in the besieged
city of Sarajevo. Three years later he was working for MSF – Doctors without
frontiers – in the Bosnian city of Tuzla during the NATO bombings. At that
moment the refugees arrived from the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica. Van
Laerhoven was the first writer from the Low Countries to be given the chance to speak to the refugees. His conversations resulted in a travel book:
Srebrenica. Getuigen van massamoord – Srebrenica. Testimony to a Mass
Murder. The book denounces the rape and torture of the Muslim population of
this Bosnian-Serbian enclave and is based on first-hand testimonies. He also
concludes that mass murders took place, an idea that was questioned at the time
but later proven accurate.
All these experiences contribute to Bob Van Laerhoven’s rich and commendable
oeuvre, an oeuvre that typifies him as the versatile author of novels, travel
stories, books for young adults, theatre pieces, biographies, poetry,
non-fiction, letters, columns, articles… He is also a prize-winning author: in
2007 he won the Hercule Poirot Prize for best thriller of the year with his
novel De Wraak van Baudelaire – Baudelaire’s Revenge.
For more information please visit Bob Van Laerhoven’s website. You can also
connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.