Book Title: The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau
Author: Graeme Macrae Burnet
Total Number of Pages: 252
Publisher: Bee Books
Publication Year: 2018
Genre: Fiction / Crime / Mystery / Literary Fiction
Manfred Baumann is a loner. Socially awkward and perpetually ill at ease, he spends his evenings quietly drinking and surreptitiously observing Adele Bedeau, the sullen but alluring waitress at a drab bistro in the unremarkable small French town of Saint-Louis. But one day, she simply vanishes into thin air. When Georges Gorski, a detective haunted by his failure to solve one of his first murder cases, is called in to investigate the girl’s disappearance, Manfred’s repressed world is shaken to its core and he is forced to confront the dark secrets of his past. ‘The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau’ is a literary mystery novel that is, at heart, an engrossing psychological portrayal of an outsider pushed to the limit by his own feverish imagination.
I love crime fictions and I think I have already said that plenty of times before. When I first received this book, The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau, I was a bit confused as to who the actual author of this novel is. On the cover it does say it’s by Graeme Macrae Burnet but then on the inside it says it’s by Raymond Burnet and Graeme Burnet is only the translator. But on a little research on the Internet and by reading the afterword from Graeme himself, I landed on this “Whether for reasons of modesty or post-modernism, Kilmarnock-born Burnet claims only to be the translator for this novel, which purports to have been written by a disillusioned French author named Raymond Brunet.
A longtime fan of Georges Simenon, Burnet seems to have preferred to invent his own French novelist to tell the story than take the credit himself.” (Quoted from www.heraldscotland.com)
It was rather puzzling to come across such an instance where the author tries to create another author and only takes credit for translation. But on reading the afterword, he says that this would be the first time this french novel is being translated in English. Moreover, he even supports his illusional author with a background and his death. Now, I am not 100% sure whether all of that is true or it’s just a make believe sort of thing.
The book is set in France and the whole backdrop of the French environment really stood out in the book. Set in an ever sleepy town called Saint Louis, the ambiance is that of a small countryside region which you would come across if you’re driving off to the main city. It has that non-metropolitan, rustic, old school vibe to it. I love novels where the setting is that of an historic time.
From the title, one would definitely think that the story is about Adèle Bedeau but on reading, one would come to know that it was just an excuse to bring up the main characters into the plotline. The book is slightly whimsical and metaphorical just like how the author pulled out his stance in the beginning. Not that I am complaining.
This sleepy town with its laid back atmosphere has one drab bistro, Restaurant de la Cloche, which receives the maximum spotlight in the plot. The social misfit and a loner, Manfred Baumann is a frequent visitor at this restaurant just like the other regular customers. Even being a regular, he doesn’t necessarily see a reason to form acquaintances or indulge in conversations with these folks. Even these people are more than happy to be in their own bubbles.
While Baumann quietly sits and drinks his alcohol, he never misses to notice the alluring waitress, Adèle Bedeau at the restaurant. Unlike how people like to think that small towns are filled with crimes and money grubbing people, Saint Louis hasn’t seen many days of crimes. Until one fine day, Adèle Bedeau dissapears suddenly. Georges Geroski who has been dangling on the verge of unemployment finally finds a case he can work his mind on. Still battling with his self-blaming habits due to his failure to solve one of the first murder cases, he sets his mind on solving this no matter what.
Once the investigation begins, Manfred undergoes some self-revealing facts about himself which disrupts his very foundation on which he had structured his life.
Baumann has his own shade of darkness to himself which nobody knows about. This was another factor which added to the clues that leads to Manfred being behind the disappearance of Adèle. It doesn’t help either when he had already been labelled as a rather odd and creepy person by the townsfolk. When every clue leads back to him, he is confronted with the fact that he is the one who is under severe suspicion. Being a loner where he isn’t even able to express his thoughts clearly, he is almost propelled on the verge of paranoia.
Talking of the characters, both Manfred and Georges appears to exhibit enough of humanism with their characteristic flaws. Georges who is still reeling from the age old failure doesn’t have enough faith in himself to believe that he can do better things in his career. Manfred has his own mental issues to deal with.
The author has definitely spent more time sketching out the characters than focusing on the plot firsthand. It’s the characters first, then comes the plot. It felt as if the author had entered into the minds of these characters from the way he has expressed each of their emotions and their thought processing. While on the surface, the book is a crime novel, once you get engrossed into the depth of the storyline, you find that it is much more than just crime.
MY FINAL VERDICT
With a highbrow writing style that sticks to French spirit, Graeme Macrae Burnet might have spoilt me for other crime novels. The readers are left to contemplate on how things could have been better and an ending, that they have to decide.
Pick this up if you’re a hardcore fan of crime novels and prefer psychologically dark characters.
POESY IN CHRYSALIS RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ / ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
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