The Readers’ Room by Antoine Laurain, translated by Jane Aitken/ Emily Boyce, Gallic Books 2020 hardcover, mystery fiction, 172 pages
I first became aware of this author when in 2017 I read The Red Notebook [© 2014], about which at the time I said: “An enjoyable little book about the finding of a red notebook and the finder’s efforts to locate it’s owner. I liked it when I read it, and liked it more as I considered it later.”
This novel is even better.
from B&N website:
When the manuscript of a debut crime novel arrives at a Parisian publishing house, everyone in the readers’ room is convinced it’s something special. And the committee for France’s highest literary honour, the Prix Goncourt, agrees.
But when the shortlist is announced, there’s a problem for editor Violaine Lepage: she has no idea of the author’s identity. As the police begin to investigate a series of murders strangely reminiscent of those recounted in the book, Violaine is not the only one looking for answers. And, suffering memory blanks following an aeroplane accident, she’s beginning to wonder what role she might play in the story …
Antoine Laurain, bestselling author of The Red Notebook, combines intrigue and charm in this dazzling novel of mystery, love and the power of books.
from Publisher’s Weekly:
“A profound love of books and authors underpins this sprightly mystery from Laurain (The President’s Hat). Violaine Lepage, the director of the manuscript readers’ room for a Parisian publisher, is certain that Sugar Flowers, a debut crime novel, will be a big seller, and so it proves when, a year later, the book is shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt. Then the problems start. First, the author, Camille Désencres, has only communicated with her publishers by email, and refuses to participate in person for interviews. Then Det. Insp. Sophie Tanche of the Rouen regional crime squad informs Violaine that a double murder described in the novel closely resembles an actual case. When a third man is found dead, the detective observes, “I don’t know how, but everything stems from one bizarre place: a thirty-square-meter room in which people are paid to read books that don’t yet exist… the readers’ room.” The tendency of characters to wax philosophical (“All books are works of black magic”) adds to the charm of this witty and perceptive novel.”
The author’s writing style is simple and straightforward, the character building the same, yet the book caught and held me through it’s length — I finished it in a day, unusual for me. Recommended.