Source: Review copy
Publication: 30th March 2023 from Zaffre Books
My thanks to Zaffre Books and Compulsive Readers for an advance copy for review
Wealthy and privileged, Alex has an easy path to success in the Parisian elite his father mingles with. But the two have never seen eye to eye. Desperate to escape the increasingly suffocating atmosphere of their apartment, Alex seeks freedom on the streets of Paris where his new-found friend Sami teaches him how to survive. But everything has a price – and one night of rebellion changes their lives forever.
A simple plan to steal money takes a sinister turn when Alex’s father is found dead. Despite protesting their innocence, both boys are imprisoned for murder. Seven years later Alex is released from prison with a single purpose: to discover who really killed his father. Yet as he searches for answers and atones for the sins of his past, Alex uncovers a disturbing truth with far-reaching consequences.
Playing out against a backdrop of corruption, fake news and civil unrest, The Messenger exposes the gritty reality of a changing city through one son’s journey to redemption and the truth.
There’s a lot to like in Megan Davis’ The Messenger. It’s a strong story that pulls no punches in its depiction of violence, sex and the backdrop of poverty, immigration and alienation in the heart of Paris.
Alex Giraud has recently emerged from a seven year prison stretch and is now living in a half way hovel in Paris. He was sentenced as a juvenile, alongside his older friend, Sami, for the brutal murder of his father, Eddie.
Alex and Eddie had a difficult relationship, not helped by his heavy handed way with Alex, his frequent absences on his work as a journalist and his very heavy drinking. Alex’s mother took off some years ago and has a new life in which Alex really never figured.
Alex is heavily burdened by guilt. Guilt that he testified against his friend at trial and guilt because he doesn’t believe either of them are responsible for his father’s death.
The Messenger is the story of Alex’ quest to find out who did kill his father and why. Told as a dual timeline story narrated by Alex, we learn about Eddie’s drinking and womanising and Alex’s failed attempts to fit in at the succession of private schools he is sent to.
The present day timeline is brilliantly set in today’s deeply schismed Paris where immigration, racism and poverty sit side by side with all the wealth and privilege that Paris has to offer and civil unrest is prowling the streets.
Davis writes very well in what is a slow burn of a book. Alex comes across as fractured and sometimes a little paranoid, but it is clear he is vulnerable as a result of his childhood experiences. In the present day he struggles with his own conscience as he tries to understand who is responsible for jeopardy that follows him upon his release. He stumbles around trying to get to the truth but finds lies everywhere he looks.
As he retraces his father’s steps and begins to question Eddie’s friends and acquaintances, the truth becomes ever more unpalatable and an awful conspiracy is laid bare.
I loved the conspiracy element of this story which felt completely contemporary and absolutely right for our times. Megan Davis brings this aspect of Paris out of the shade and all its ugliness is portrayed once brought into the sunlight. Both intriguing and plausible, this is when the book really comes into its own and the depth of the plot is revealed.
I did think though that this book could have benefitted from some tightening of the plot and an injection of a little more empathy into the characters. The ending was tied up well, but again, given the slow pace of the book, felt a little rushed.
Overall, I enjoyed this dark and intense thriller and I’ll await Megan Davis’ next book with interest.
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Megan Davis grew up in mining towns in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, and Singapore. She worked for many years as a lawyer in the film industry and my credits include The Constant Gardener, Atonement, Eastern Promises, In Bruges, Pride & Prejudice, and the Bourne films. In the film industry she encountered the world of corruption and white-collar crime and has worked in the field ever since. She is currently an associate at Spotlight on Corruption. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. A partial of The Messenger won the Bridport/Peggy Chapman-Andrews Award for a First Novel in 2018, judged by Kamila Shamsie. The Messenger won the 2021 Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize.