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by Jef Geeraerts and Brian Doyle, trans.
Bitter Lemon Press, April 2009
285 pages
7.99 GBP
ISBN: 1904738389

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Albert Savelkoul is the Public Prosecutor of Antwerp. He's rolling in money, can pull strings when he needs to and has a posh wife. But his idyllic life, supplemented by a beautiful mistress and his beloved horses, is threatened when Opus Dei take an unhealthy interest in him.

It's all the fault of his wife, who is desperate for her sons to have titles. The Opus Dei big-wigs promise to help just so long as she signs all her money over to them.

THE PUBLIC PROSECUTOR isn't your common-or-garden psychological thriller. At times, it even threatens to wander outside of the genre and not to return, as parody and Jef Geeraerts's bone-dry sense of the absurd intersperse the cat-and-mouse game that an unknowing Savelkoul becomes part of.

This isn't a flattering portrait of Belgian society, which is seemingly mired in corruption at all levels, and riven by language differences. Added to the sordid mix is religious fanaticism and some voracious sexual appetites.

Geeraerts who is apparently the best-known author in Belgium after Georges Simenon presents us with a picaresque series of characters. Aside from Albert's loyal Polish maid Maria, this isn't a bunch of people you'd care to spend any time with. But Geeraerts does manage to turn the seriously shifty Albert into a character you very nearly sympathise with as he tries to stop his life crashing around him.

You can't call THE PUBLIC PROSECUTOR a slick or quick read. It took me a while to get into it, and I suspect for a lot of people it might fail the 50-page test. But stick with it, and try to ignore the fact that it sags somewhat in the middle and threatens to lose what little pace it has. Things pick up again quite considerably, and it's not a spoiler to say that Geeraerts avoids a too-neat ending.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, November 2009

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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