The Adversary by Emmanuel Carrère

 Source: Free review copy received from the publisher

Translated from the French by Linda Coverdale

Five words from the blurb: murder, lies, family, exploration, suspense

The Adversary is an investigation into what caused Jean-Claude Romand, a seemingly happy and successful man, to murder his entire family in 1993. The author, Emmanuel Carrère, interviewed all the people involved in this horrible crime and discovered how one small lie escalated and led to Romand leading a secret double life for over 20 years. This fascinating insight into the eyes of the killer shows how easily ordinary people can become trapped and feel as though their only way out is through a terrible act of violence.

I was enthralled throughout this book. The structure was perfect – giving the reader new details at exactly the right point and keeping tension and intrigue all the way through.

The murders were described briefly but were not sensationalised. Instead, the book focused on the life of Jean-Claude and those who knew him. His friends described their shock at discovering what he’d done, but also how clues to his problems could be seen with hindsight. The book enabled the reader to form an empathy with the murderer – a rare achievement that makes this uncomfortable read all the more special.

He would rather have suffered from a real cancer than from a lie – because lying was a disease, with its risks of metastasis, its guarded prognosis – but he had been fated to come down with a lie and it wasn’t his fault he had.

My only wish is that the book had been updated with what happened to Jean-Claude in the years that have elapsed since the murders. Hopefully, another chapter or two can be added to this book at a later date. Otherwise, I have no complaints. The Adversary joins People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry and A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold as one of the best pieces of true-crime I’ve read.

Highly recommended.

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4 Comments

  1. Marina Sofia says:

    This was the one true crime situation that I became somewhat obsessed with, because I lived in the village where this took place, just down the road from the house where it happened. So I got to speak to the local people who had known the family – it was still having an impact on the community 20 years on. He was apparently ‘the doctor’ during his stay in prison, impressing all the other inmates and even the guards with his ‘wisdom and piety’. There was some talk that he might be released in 2016, but it doesn’t seem to have happened.

    1. Jackie says:

      Marina, Wow. Having a local connection must make this story even more interesting. Have you read the book? I’d be interested in your take on it and whether it accurately reflects the opinions of the locals.

      My proof copy of the book states that he was released from prison in 2015. I wonder if this happened? It’s a fascinating story.

  2. Bookertalk says:

    read about this true story today. what an extraordinary tale. remarkable how he kept his secret of his job for so long

    1. Jackie says:

      Yes, the whole thing is just fascinating. I hope you get the chance to read the book and enjoy it as much as I did.

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