Friday, 11 July 2014

Recherche: A Tale of Memories, Murder and Vampires by Jim Williams

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Reviewer: Barbara Scott Emmett, author of The Land Beyond Goodbye, Don’t Look Down and the soon to be published Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion. (

What We Thought: I hadn’t come across Jim Williams before I discovered this book and I am so glad I did. I now have the pleasure of looking forward to reading the rest of his work.

Recherche is the sort of novel I would love to have written myself. It’s deeply weird, is told in several voices and leaves you wondering at the end. It is, on one level, a murder mystery but the mystery isn’t who did it, it’s whether it was ever done at all.

Lawyer, John Harper has left his wife and is spending the summer in France with his secretary/lover Lucy. When Lucy disappears Harper is suspected of her murder though no evidence can be found.

Alongside the present day mystery (set sometime in the 90s) runs the bizarre tale of an old man, Harry Haze, who claims to be a vampire. Be warned though - this isn’t Twilight. It’s a fascinating romp through the history of the last hundred years or so which mixes Proust with Dorian Grey, Churchill with Rudolf Hess, takes a detour into Lolita country, and throws in asides on Rasputin and Bela Lugosi for good measure. Harry Haze tells fantastic (in the original sense of fanciful and absurd) tales of having been (among other things) a war criminal, a Jewish stand-up comedian and a friend of J. Edgar Hoover - but can he ever be believed?

John Harper doesn’t think so. But then, ultimately, he doesn’t know what to believe.

If you enjoy literary allusions, swooping language and mysteries that stay mysterious, this book is for you.

You’ll enjoy this if you like: Playful and extravagant writing. The Magus and suchlike novels.

Avoid if you dislike: Anything too flamboyant. Fantastical tales couched in reality.

Ideal accompaniments: Copious amounts of French wine and a joint or three.

Genre: Literary fiction, Contemporary fiction.

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