The Enigma of Room 622: A Novel by Joël Dicker (@QuercusBooks) A box of tricks and an exercise in metafiction

Hi, all:

I’ve shared my reviews for a couple of books by Joël Dicker before, and his popularity seems to be increasing by the minute. Of course, I couldn’t resist reading and reviewing his latest book (in English).

The Enigma of Room 622 by Joël Dicker

The Enigma of Room 622 by Joël Dicker

A September 2022 Amazon Best of the Month Pick

“Dicker salutes Agatha Christie even as he drops the reader through one trapdoor into another, so that by the end, we doubt we’ve ever read another novel quite like it. (We haven’t.) Fans of Ruth Ware and Lucy Foley will hug this book in between chapters; the many readers who love Anthony Horowitz’s mysteries will celebrate. And me? I’ll be reading it again.”—A. J. Finn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Window 

“[The Enigma of Room 622 is an] exhilarating tour de force”–The Wall Street Journal

A burnt-out writer’s retreat at a fancy Swiss hotel is interrupted by a murder mystery in this metafictional, meticulously crafted whodunit from the New York Times bestselling author of The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair.

A writer named Joël, Switzerland’s most prominent novelist, flees to the Hôtel de Verbier, a luxury resort in the Swiss Alps. Disheartened over a recent breakup and his longtime publisher’s death, Joël hopes to rest. However, his plans quickly go awry. It all starts with a seemingly innocuous detail: at the Verbier, there is no room 622. 

Before long, Joël and fellow guest Scarlett uncover a long-unsolved murder that transpired in the hotel’s room 622. The attendant circumstances: the succession of Switzerland’s largest private bank, a mysterious counterintelligence operation called P-30, and a most disreputable sabotage of hotel hospitality. A European phenomenon, The Enigma of Room 622 is a matryoshka doll of intrigue–as precise as a Swiss watch–and Dicker’s most diabolically addictive thriller yet.

Translated from the French by Robert Bononno

About the author:

Joël Dicker was born in Geneva in 1985, where he studied Law. THE TRUTH ABOUT THE HARRY QUEBERT AFFAIR was nominated for the Prix Goncourt and won the Grand Prix du Roman de l’Académie Française and the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens. It soon became a worldwide success in 2014, publishing in 42 countries and selling more than 3.5 million copies. In the UK it was a Times number one bestseller, and was chosen for the Richard and Judy Book Club as well as Simon Mayo’s Radio 2 Book Club.

In May 2017 his novel THE BALTIMORE BOYS, already making waves across Europe and number one in several countries, will be published for the first time in English. Both a sequel and a prequel to THE TRUTH ABOUT THE HARRY QUEBERT AFFAIR, it will centres around traumatic events that blight the lives of the Baltimore branch of Marcus Goldman’s family.

My review:

Thanks to Netgalley and to Quercus Books for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

What can I tell you about this book? I kept thinking of different accolades and even genres as I read: jigsaw puzzle, with elements of the classic mystery with an amateur (a couple) investigator, a farce (full of confusion, characters who pretend to be something/somebody they are not, pretences, hidden objects, false clues, fake identities, cheating…), a spy novel, a book set in the world of private banking and high finances, a story of thwarted love and difficult family relationships, an autobiographical book about the author and an homage to his recently deceased editor (Bernard de Fallois), a metafictional exercise about an author writing a book about a mystery (an author called Joël who has recently lost his editor and wants to write a book about him but ends up writing… something else).

This is, as is always the case with Dicker’s novels, a long book, and it jumps backward and forward in time, from the present (2018) to the time of the mystery (15 years prior) and forward and backward between those two timelines. Those who prefer straightforward narratives that follow a chronological order and are not too demanding of our attention should not attempt this book. Although the time frames are clearly indicated every time they change, any distraction could easily cause confusion. It is true that the information is rehashed and revised a number of times, because the investigators (the author called Joël and Scarlett, a woman he meets during his holiday who insists on trying his theory about writing and what would work as a good plot for a story) keep reaching cul-de-sacs and having to dismiss all the clues and suspects they had been working on, so there are options to catch up if you have forgotten any small details. In spite of that, this is one of those books that should not be read over long stretches of time, as I suspect it could become increasingly frustrating, and either it will grab your attention and keep you reading or it won’t, from pretty early on.

For those who prefer their mysteries very tight, with no loose threads and totally realistic, this novel might not work either. It does require a huge dose of suspension of disbelief (this might depend on your interpretation of the overall narrative, but I’m speaking in general terms here, and sorry, but I cannot clarify matters without toppling the house of cards), and you need to be happy to follow the characters (and there are quite a few of those, whose points of view we are offered, always in the third person apart from Joël’s, who writes in the first person) wherever they want to take you without questioning too much how plausible it all is, otherwise, you will not be able to enjoy the experience, because you will get pushed out of the story (the stories) and will no longer care what the answer to the many questions might be. So yes, you need to be happy to be taken for a ride. And quite a ride this is.

For all the reasons above, I will not try to discuss in too much detail either the plot or the characters. Let’s say that I appreciated, most of all, the comments about writing and the reflections about the nature of fiction, the homage to the editor (who might be a character in this novel but who also had a counterpart in real life), and although I kept shaking my head at the twist on twist on twist, I admire the author for daring to (try to) pull such a literary trick out of his hat, and I am sure a couple of the characters of the novel (who are skilled performers themselves) would clap admiringly at his prowess.

I am not going to reveal the ending, but you will probably imagine, by now, that the author couldn’t leave without a final twist. Did I see the twist coming? Well, which one of the many there are in the novel? I kept thinking about other books I have read about writers at work, and I must admit this is one of the most entertaining ones I have come across, and it did keep me thinking and wondering till the very end, even if at times I thought Dicker had gone too far. If you want your characters squeaky clean, nice, totally realistic, and consistent, I advise you not to read this book. Otherwise, there are no major warnings required other than the cautions I’ve shared about the way the story is written and personal preferences.

A random fact I had to mention: there is a character called Olga, and although she is not a nice person by any stretch of the imagination, she does the right thing in the end. So, I won’t take offence at the use the author makes of my name.

The other comment I’ll add is that there is a fabulous note written by the translator as part of the backmatter that illustrates beautifully the process of translating a text, especially one as complex as this novel. I also like his description of the book:

And in this way, the novel turns in upon itself, like the ever circling spirals of a gastropod shell.

The author inside of the story explains that rather than describing a series of facts, a plot should ask a question or a series of questions. And on that front, you can hardly do better than this novel. If you are happy to give it time, don’t mind books playing tricks on you, and enjoy the challenge, give it a go. It might drive you mad, but it is likely to keep you entertained and make you smile in wonder.

Thanks to the publisher, the author, and NetGalley for the opportunity, thanks to all of you for following and reading my blog, and remember to share with anybody who might enjoy it, and keep reading, smiling, and having fun. ♥

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#TuesdayBookBlog #Exiles by Jane Harper (@janeharperautho) (@panmacmillan) #Netgalley Aaron Falk comes full circle

Hi all:

I bring you the latest novel by Jane Harper, who is one of my favourite novelists in recent years, and one of a group of Australian writers (she is originally from Manchester, in the UK) whose publications I always celebrate. This is the last novel of Aaron Falk, her most famous character, and although I prefer some of her other novels, it is a great read. I must confess that I identified with some of the conversations and the decisions a couple of the characters are faced with, and I think after the strange years we have survived, quite a few people might feel the same.

The book will be published on the 2nd of February 2023, and you can preorder it already.

Exiles by Jane Harper

Exiles by Jane Harper


“Once again Harper proves that she is peerless in creating an avalanche of suspense with intimate, character-driven set pieces…Harper’s legions of fans will exult in reading Exiles.”
—David Baldacci, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Federal Investigator Aaron Falk is on his way to a small town deep in Southern Australian wine country for the christening of an old friend’s baby. But mystery follows him, even on vacation.

This weekend marks the one-year anniversary of Kim Gillespie’s disappearance. One year ago, at a busy town festival on a warm spring night, Kim safely tucked her sleeping baby into her stroller, then vanished into the crowd. No one has seen her since. When Kim’s older daughter makes a plea for anyone with information about her missing mom to come forward, Falk and his old buddy Raco can’t leave the case alone.

As Falk soaks up life in the lush valley, he is welcomed into the tight-knit circle of Kim’s friends and loved ones. But the group may be more fractured than it seems. Between Falk’s closest friend, the missing mother, and a woman he’s drawn to, dark questions linger as long-ago truths begin to emerge. What would make a mother abandon her child? What happened to Kim Gillespie?

Author Jane Harper

About the author:

Jane Harper is the author of The Dry, winner of various awards including the 2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, the 2017 Indie Award Book of the Year, the 2017 Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year Award and the CWA Gold Dagger Award for the best crime novel of 2017. Rights have been sold in 27 territories worldwide, and film rights optioned to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea. Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK and lives in Melbourne.

My review:

I thank NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

This is the fifth of Jane Harper’s novels I read, and it is the third one whose protagonist is Federal Investigator (AFP Officer) Aaron Falk. This time, the story is set in Southern Australia, in the fictional Marralee Valley, a wine-producing region. The author’s stories —mysterious crimes set in Australia— have gained the accolade of “outback noir”, and it feels right, although they share much in common with domestic noir, even when the setting tends to rely heavily on the landscapes and peculiarities of Australian towns, especially small towns, and nature. The action builds up slowly; there is a lot of attention paid to family and close relationships, to the psychology of the characters, and to the way the crime (or crimes) interact with the setting; and rather than being heavy on the procedural part of the investigation, the stories tend to focus on uncovering the truth by unveiling the personal stories of those involved and testing the different versions of what happened. For those who worry about explicit violence and gore, you can rest assured. There are some creepy and tense moments, and we come to the realisation that not all the characters are as benign as they seem to be, but that is all. And the story is complete in itself and it is not necessary to have read the two previous novels starring Falk to follow it, although those who have will be able to better appreciate the full arc of his story and how he has evolved.

I hadn’t read much about the story beforehand, but it still felt like a final adventure for Falk from early on, and not only because he is joined by some of the characters he met in The Dry, which were favourites of mine. There is a beautiful symmetry in the way the story works out. In The Dry, the first of the three stories Harper has published about Falk, he goes back to the little town where he grew up, to attend the funeral of a friend. In this one, he goes to a small town to not only attend the christening but also become godfather to Greg Raco’s son, a recent friend he met in the first novel and with whom he investigated that case. He is welcomed into Raco’s family and the town, and although he had never visited before, it feels like a homecoming for him.

There are two crimes in this novel, both old (and more or less cold) cases. One is the case of Kim, a woman who went missing the previous year at the local wine fair, and whose disappearance resulted in the cancellation of the christening of Raco’s boy (because this is a book about second chances as well). Even though he didn’t know the woman, Falk became a witness in the case, because Kim happened to be the long-term on-and-off partner of Raco’s brother, Charlie, with whom she shared an adolescent daughter, Zara, who lived with her father in the vineyard. Kim had moved away, married again, and was now also the mother of a little girl. Although most people suspected she had committed suicide, all her friends were surprised that she would have abandoned her daughter, leaving her alone and unattended in her pram at the fair.

The other case was a hit-and-run incident that had taken place in the same area six years previously, in which a man who worked in the office next door to the missing woman, had been killed. Are the two cases related? Zara and the missing man’s son, Joel, think so and are determined to find the truth out. Falk finds himself involved in both cases, in the lives of his friends and the people of the town, and starts questioning many things about his work, his priorities, and his own future.

Among the themes, I have mentioned families, difficult and even abusive relationships, childhood and long-term friendships and how they evolve through the years, small-town life, professional and personal choices, what would we do to uncover the truth and to protect our children, and there is a romance as well, one that I enjoyed precisely because it was a bit unusual but I felt it suited the characters involved perfectly well.

The story is slow and reposed, and it meanders through the events that are happening while the christening and the fair are being organised, as we follow Falk’s thoughts, reflections, and his nagging sensation that he is missing something. There is something quite bucolic about the rhythm and the development of the story, although I didn’t feel the setting was as well achieved and as realistically rendered as in the two other stories (The Dry and Force of Nature), perhaps because Falk is seeing things from a different perspective and he is not the same person and is not in the same place as he was before. There is also something idealised about the way the place is depicted, and although there are some disturbing elements and characters, “noir” is a bit of a stretch for the way the story develops.

The story is narrated in the third person, mostly from Falk’s point of view. There is a change in point of view towards the end of the story that turns things on their head, but I don’t want to reveal too much or spoil the story for those reading it, so I’ll leave you to check it out. It is an interesting choice on the part of the author, and I suspect some readers won’t like it. It adds some depth to the story, although it might be frustrating for those looking for a standard mystery. I personally enjoyed the ending (endings, as Falk, eventually solves both cases), even though I agree with comments that say it seems to come on quite suddenly compared to the rhythm of the rest of the novel.

I am happy to recommend all the novels Harper has published to date. They are beautifully written, and she creates intriguing plots and credible characters (some we love, and some we don’t). Despite the mystery elements, these books are not high-octane, fast-paced, action-packed, and anxiety-inducing thrillers. They are reflective and take their time to set the story and introduce the characters and their conflicts. Although this is not my favourite, I feel it works well as the last call for Falk; it provides a suitable and happy closure for the character, and I strongly recommend it to those who have read the two previous novels. Oh, and I learned that the second Falk novel has also been adapted to the big screen. I look forward to it, as I enjoyed the excellent adaptation of The Dry, and Eric Bana is an actor I’m always happy to watch.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author, for her novel, thanks to all of your for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and always keep smiling.


Weekend #ShortStories: Can’t Find My Way Home — & #NewBook Dan Antion’s When Evil Chooses You

A strange dream-like story inspired by a song and an image, by Teagan Geneviene​ who also shares the release of Dan Antion​’s third book, When Evil Chooses You. Congratulations!

Teagan's Books

Saturday, December 3, 2022

When Evil Chooses You Dan Antion

“When Evil Chooses You” is now available on Amazon in Paperback and for Kindle

Welcome back to the Teagan Zone.  This “Shorts for the Weekend” series has taken a turn from reader provided photos to songs from readers. Sometimes serendipity jumps in, and causes me to share more than I ordinarily might.  When Dan Antion offered Steve Winwood’s Can’t Find My Way Home in response to my request for songs that I could use as story inspiration, several things came together.

Firstly, Dan has just published the third book in his Dreamer’s Alliance series, When Evil Chooses You.  Naturally I wanted to share that news.  As you could deduce from the series title, dreaming plays an important part in these stories.  That was the second thing that prompted me to use a song Dan offered.  Third, that song, Can’t Find My Way Home is a song…

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What’s a Waiata? — Calling for Songs for Weekend Short Stories

Teagan Geneviene​ is looking for some inspiration for her weekend shorts. If you have a song with a narrative that speaks to you, share it with her.

Teagan's Books

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Hullaba Lulu promo image by Teagan R. GenevieneHullaba Lulu promo image by Teagan R. Geneviene

Did I hook you with that question?  A waiata is a Maori song.  Waiata serve many functions. They can be used to support a whaikōrero (formal speech) or sung to express grief after a death. Waiata were used to help teach children, to urge people to take up a cause, or to mourn in times of loss. Waiata can record a tribe’s past by referring to ancestors, events and places.

Why did I ask?  Well, I had to have some kind of lead-in.  Besides, it’s relevant, and I’m getting there.  My blogging shtick was always my “Three Things” style serial stories, where I collect three random things from readers, and let those things drive a spontaneously written serial story.  It might look easy, but it can take a lot out of a writer.  Unfortunately, I still don’t have…

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Birds of a Feather — Book Fair!

Teagan Geneviene​ recommends some birds and wing-related books for the holiday, including some of mine! Thanks, Teagan, and readers don’t miss on her recommendations. Her books are awesome and she knows what she is talking about!

Teagan's Books

Wednesday, November 24, 2022

Image by TeaganImage by Teagan

Hello everyone. In a few hours it will be Thanksgiving Day here in the USA.  In addition to the giving of thanks, it’s associated with good food, football games, and shopping.  I’m grateful for a lot, but I haven’t been able to write because of my “stuff.”  One thing that always makes me feel better is doing something to lift up others.  Thinking about that, I suddenly decided to do a mini-book fair.

There are endless wonderful indie books.  Immediately I saw that I had to set a limit for my post. A theme was in order, but what? Abruptly, Robbie Cheadle’s story “The Christmas Bird” reminded me that I’ve included birds in a few of my own books.  That became my fair theme, Birds of a FeatherThis mini-book fair features stories that include birds… and a few that…

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Weekend Shorts ― 3 Things Exercise

Where will the three things take us this weekend? Visit Teagan Geneviene​’s blog to find out!


Weekend Shorts ― Turkey Time for Pip

Teagan Geneviene​ revisits one of her beloved characters, Pip, and shares some links to free books from the 1920s. Thanks, Teagan, Pip and Granny Phanny!

Teagan's Books

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Happy weekend, all.  I’m afraid my week went sideways, and I didn’t get any writing done.  I was feeling bad about not doing a post today… then it hit me that I could rerun something.  I’ve posted this short story from the “Pip-verse” a few times over the years, but it’s the right time of year.  Pip and Granny Phanny would have made great Pumpkin Hat Girls, except they are in the 1920s.

As an extra treat, I’ve included links to where you can get a lot of free books that were popular in the 1920s.  Anyhow, maybe you’ve either forgotten about that series, or it was before you started following me.  So here it is.

Turkey Time for Pip

1928 Thanksgiving New YorkerThe New Yorker magazine, November 1928

“Paisley Idelle Peabody, I’ll have no complaining,” Granny Phanny stated firmly.

“But Granny, that’s practically all day!  Why can’t I…

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#ThursdayDoors to #IndieBooks — Art Deco Doors

Teagan Geneviene​ shares some amazing doors for Dan Antion​’s #ThursdayDoors and reminds us of her latest story, A Peril in Ectoplasm!

Teagan's Books

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Thursday Doors to Indie Books

Image by TeaganImage by Teagan

Welcome to my sanctuary.  In this magical place, we can be any-when. Multiple whens might even colide.  My mind is still in the 1920s with “A Peril in Ectoplasm.” When I think of that decade, I also think of all things Art Deco.  That style often makes me think of sleek, highly polished metal.  So, today I’m sharing a few relevant doors. 

The stunning 1935 Bugatti Type 57s Aerolithe featured in my promo image above is actually from later than the setting of my story.  How could I resist though?  Note the intriguing shape of the car’s door.  I found this informative short video. It shows the Bugatti’s door opening, the interior, and even the polished finishing under the hood. It also describes the kind of metal used.

There are a few “regular” metal doors that I’ll…

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Weekend Shorts — Do Not Enter, featuring Resa McConaghy

Teagan Geneviene​ treats us to another weekend adventure of the Pumpkin Hat Girls! Great fun!

Teagan's Books

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Hello, everyone.  I’m back with more Weekend Shorts.  Also, I brought along the Pumpkin Hat Girls again.  They were up for some more Twilight Zone-ish fun.

Back when I asked photographers and artists to send me three images that were “generally related” one another (unlike the randomness of the readerthings I need for serials), multi-talented Resa McConaghy responded with several from her neck of the woods — specifically, Sunnyside Beach in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Resa is a multi-talented designer, artist, and finder of fabulous murals.  She shares some of her lovely things at Graffiti Lux Art & More

Do Not Enter

The Pumpkin Hat Girls #3

Lake Ontario BeachPhoto by Resa McConaghy

Tires hummed along the road.  Colorful trees slid past the car windows.  Red taillights of a vehicle in the distance ahead of us came and went as Penny negotiated bends in the road.


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Spook-tober Snippet: A Peril in Ectoplasm, #Halloween

If you need a story to read for Halloween, Teagan Geneviene​ shares an intriguing and eerie snippet of her novella A Peril in Ectoplasm. Check it out!

Teagan's Books

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Peter H at PixabayPeter H at Pixabay

Welcome, everyone.  This week, I didn’t have time to write a new “Spook-tober Shorts” story.  However, I’m sharing a short snippet from my Halloween novel, “A Peril in Ectoplasm.”

Step into the 1920s of Coral Gables, Florida with world renowned psychic medium, Daphne Moultrie. A spirit warned her that she must find a particular girl or else she will die.  But what girl and where?  We join Daphne on her search.

From A Peril in Ectoplasm: Just Once More

A Peril in Ectoplasm ouija kindle promo


Keys of typewriters clacked in a chaotic lack of rhythm, interspersed by the ding of carriage returns.  Daphne Moultrie walked down a hallway in the South Florida Practical School for Young Women.

She climbed a flight of stairs.  Breathing heavily, she had to stop before she reached the top.  She knewit was wrong that she should be so easily fatigued.  Taking a…

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