Review # 23 / « VIS-À-VIS » by Peter Swanson
It’s been a long time, so long since the last time I posted something WordPress has changed!
For several weeks I have been thinking of coming back, but it was not so easy. I told myself that I would no longer know how to do it (which is absurd: I never knew how to do, I always did as I could, as it came). I wondered which book to start with (because if I haven’t posted anything in months I still read on). I thought to myself that I really had to improve my photos (because that’s frankly not that). In short, I always had a good reason to do nothing (because I no longer work).
Those who follow me on Instagram (those who have the courage to do so) may have read the two posts I had committed (I don’t see any other term) and in which I explained that I had lost my parents brutally.
It’s been three months now, the mourning is just beginning and I am talking about it when it was absolutely not the subject. I’m talking about it because I don’t really know how to do it any other way.
Literature, whether created, studied or consumed, is not independent of our lives, of the events that pass through them. I think the choices we make in terms of reading are not unrelated to what is happening to us, what we feel at some point … well, that sort of thing.
So there you go, I am giving this information (to be taken as such), because perhaps these events have, in some way, influenced my readings in recent months.
Finally, to get to the nerve of war, the reason why I write this post today: I just finished what I would define without much hesitation as the best thriller I have ever read since The Invisible by Robert Pobi. A novel like I have been waiting for a long time, a book that we do not let go, that takes us elsewhere, takes us in the stomach and makes us shiver. This thriller is Vis-a-vis by Peter Swanson.
Without claiming expert status (which I am not), I think I can say (in all humility) that I have a little experience with thrillers. I have read (with more or less pleasure) just about all the best sellers that everyone has talked about, I have read others that nobody knows (and frankly, there are few good surprises – the very good thrillers benefit from word of mouth which makes it difficult to miss out on or at least ignore that they exist).
So I have a flaw (which I think all lovers of thrillers or crime stories share): from the start, I put the characters in my head, I anticipate the plot and I leaf through my internal catalog of diagrams to guess what the author is preparing for me.
My theory is that when the thriller is good, either I don’t guess (because the plot is too well put together and innovative), or (for pleasure) I quickly give up my investigation and I let myself embark without thinking .
Vis-a-vis belongs to the second category. Maybe it also belongs to the first but I will never know because from the first chapter I dropped the analysis to follow Henrietta and discover its history.
Henrietta & Lloyd have just moved to a suburb of Boston where they meet their new neighbors: a not unpleasant couple made up of Mira and Matthew.
Only a few days after their first meeting, Mira invites them to come and share a meal at their home. Everyone seems to be having a good time, until Mira offers her guests a tour of the house. Arriving in Matthew’s office, Henrietta notices a trophy exposed on the mantel. She is sure of it: this object belonged to Dustin Miller, a young boy murdered several years earlier and whose murder haunted her until recently, plunging her into a particularly worrying manic state.
From there, Henrietta, convinced that her new neighbor is a serial killer of the worst kind, will conduct her investigation, struggling to be heard because of her bipolarity.
I swallowed the 393 pages in two days, seizing the smallest moment available to move forward with Hen, an endearing, strong character who we cannot help but identify with despite the hardships she is going through. The plot is perfectly crafted, the characters are rich and dense (especially the women), even the translation leaves nothing to be desired.
To summarize, Vis-a-vis is a novel reminiscent of the great Sonatine years where as soon as a book came out, you knew you could buy it without hesitation, being sure to have a good time and get value for money. Gallmeister is gradually gaining this place, continuing to establish itself as a big house, offering strong, innovative and high quality texts.