Source : Netgalley
Publication: Arcade Publishing on 27 October 2017
Manfred Baumann is a loner. Socially awkward and perpetually ill at ease, he spends his evenings quietly drinking and surreptitiously observing Adèle 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 Adèle 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.
Graeme Macrae Burnet writes beautifully and that’s what sets this novel apart from the crowd. With exquisite detail, he lays out the ordered, humdrum life of Manfred Baumann, a 36 year old bank manager in the sleepy small French town of Saint-Louis near the Swiss border. Manfred would rather eat food he dislikes than disrupt the pattern of his life and thus draw attention to himself.
He dresses in the same boring suits, eats at the same bistro every day and orders the same food. He drinks his wine in the evenings in the same bistro and his carefully constructed and fastidious life follows a pattern that seldom varies. Even his somewhat functional sex life, conducted wholly without attachment, is accorded a place in his routine. His companion drinkers in the bistro with whom he has a nodding acquaintance after years of patronage, casually allow him to play cards with them one evening a week, but even then the convention is that he waits to be invited. He is the eponymous Outsider and the echoes of Camus are strong in places.
Though he strives to affect detached indifference, he is curious about the bistro’s waitress, Adele in whom he sees a languorous dormant sexuality which makes him both curious and somehow uncomfortable.
When Adele suddenly disappears, Manfred finds himself caught up in the speculation over her disappearance and it is not long before the detective assigned to the case, Gorki, begins to treat it as a murder.
Gorski is haunted by a past failure, a case he failed to solve when he was in his twenties and just at the start of his career. A teenage girl was murdered in a wood and though someone was convicted of her murder, Gorski has never been satisfied that they had the correct result.
With lovely echoes of French noir in a Simenon novel, Gorski begins to look at all the people Adele came into contact with, and it is not long before his gaze falls on Manfred.
Manfred, overly given to being concerned about what people think of him, struggles to tell Gorski the truth about his movements, and thus the mystery begins to entangle both characters in a twisted path which cannot do other than lead to tragedy.
As Manfred’s carefully constructed life slowly disintegrates under Gorski’s scrutiny, the secrets of his past and his present become one big lie he struggles to hold on to.
I really enjoyed this book because of its literary antecedents, its psychological complexities and the fabulous characterisation of time, place and people.
Beautifully done and with a nice afterword, which really must be read as part of the novel, this is a gem of a book.
Graeme’s third book, The Accident on the A35 also published this month, features the same detective Gorski in the same part of France.
The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau is re-published by Arcade Publishing on 27 October 2017
About Graeme MacRae Burnet
Graeme is the Author of the Year – Sunday Herald Culture Awards 2017
He is the author of three novels, The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau (2014) , the Man Booker shortlisted His Bloody Project (2015), and The Accident on the A35 (October 2017). His Bloody Project is to be published in over 20 countries including Germany, the US, Russia, China and France.
He has appeared at festivals and events in Edinburgh, Los Angeles, Adelaide, Macau, Estonia, Moscow, Cheltenham, Berlin, Paris, Glasgow, London, Ullapool and many more. If you’d like to book him for an event, you can get in touch on Facebook or Twitter or through his publisher, Saraband. He is part of the Scottish Book Trust’s Live Literature Database, which can help with funding for events in Scotland.
Graeme was born in Kilmarnock in Scotland and now lives in Glasgow. Previously he has lived and worked in Prague, Porto, Bordeaux and London. He has an MA in English Literature/Film Studies from Glasgow University and an M.Litt in International Security Studies from St Andrews.