The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau by Graeme Macrae Burnet review

Hi, hope everyone is starting to feel all Christmassy now we are in December (where did the time go?!) I’m back with a review for The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau by Graeme Macrae Burnet, under the guise of translating French author Raymond Brunet. Set in Saint-Louis, a small French town near the Swiss border, we follow Manfred Baumann. He is a bit of a loner whose day to day life never really differs. He works in a bank and at lunchtime and in the evenings he visits the Restaurant de la Cloche, where Adele Bedeau works as a waitress. One day Adele disappears without a trace. Inspector Georges Gorski investigates the case and in doing so both his and Manfred’s pasts come to light.

At first I wasn’t sure about the narrative as I thought it was quite stilted in parts. However as the novel went on, I actually really enjoyed it. Macrae Burnet wanted the story to read like a work in translation. I think he did that well but I was more impressed by how the narrative voice closely resembled Manfred Baumann. He is an outsider, considered weird by the other residents of the town, and doesn’t know how to interact socially. He overthinks every interaction and what he should or should not do. Macrae Burnet captures that perfectly. The sentence structure and word choice were excellent and made this quite odd character believable. I really felt that Macrae Burnet knew Manfred inside out and there wasn’t a bum note.

Similarly, I really liked how Gorski was portrayed. A strong contender for Most Incompetent Inspector in Fiction – there was one case I thought was incredibly obvious but not to him – you really feel his frustration at coming to dead ends. He was such a different detective from what I had read previously. He doesn’t rely on hunches or guesses and instead prefers clear evidence and motive. He isn’t a Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot either, he feels like an ordinary man trying his best to deal with extraordinary events, as well as quite a fractured marriage. You really feel for him and wish he would solve the case.

If you like your crime novels fast-paced then this isn’t for you. It is slow but I think the story benefits from that. As a reader I really enjoyed getting to know this sleep back-water town and its inhabitants in detail. It’s noted that not a lot happens in Saint-Louis so the slow-paced nature of the plot reflects life there. You also learn more about Baumann and Gorski. The unveiling of the past, and how these men may have met previously, was thrilling. It gave you not only a greater understanding of these characters but made the ‘present’ events all the more intriguing. Adele’s disappearance seems almost like a MacGuffin at times, a mere minor plot point so we can delve into the mindset of both Baumann and Gorski.

Without giving away any spoilers, I think the ending will spilt opinion. I thought it was very cleverly done, and I now want to rush and get the next Gorski novel. You will not get a nice, tied-up ending here. As readers we are left to draw our own conclusions, which I enjoyed. If you like literary crime then I definitely think you’ll like The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau. The characters are intriguing, given great depth by Macrae Burnet. He also manages to evoke this small town wonderfully, I could picture Saint-Louis and the nearby Rhine. Since we’re coming into winter and cold, dark nights this is one novel to dive into with a hot drink and a warm fire.

The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau is published by Contraband and you can find more info here.

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