By a Slow River

By Philippe Claudel
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9781400042807, 208pp.)

Publication Date: June 13, 2006

Other Editions of This Title: Paperback

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As the First World War rages on, the daily life of a small town near the front is hardly disturbed by the report of artillery fire and the parade of wounded in its streets. But within the space of a year, this illusion of ordinary days is shattered by the deaths of three innocents—a charming schoolmistress from “the north,” who captured every male heart only to take her own life without apparent reason; an angelic eight-year-old girl, who is strangled, her body abandoned by the canal; and the cherished wife of the local policeman, who dies in labor while her husband is hunting the little girl’s murderer.

Twenty years on, the policeman still struggles to make sense of these mysteries that both torment and sustain him. In the pages of his notebooks he continually—desperately, obsessively—summons up the past and its ghosts. But excavating the town’s secret history will bring neither peace to him nor justice to the wicked. And as his solitary detective work continues on these long-closed cases, we come to see that his efforts can lead only to an unimaginable widening of the tragedy.

In the policeman’s simple, plangent voice--full of unflinching scrutiny and the compassion of weary experience--Philippe Claudel gives us a tale of galvanizing suspense and an indelible meditation on morality.

About the Author

Philippe Claudel was born in 1962. Before becoming a novelist, he was a teacher and a screenwriter. He lives in France.

Praise For By a Slow River

“Achingly beautiful . . . [with an] air of universal fable: baleful and tragic yet curiously enlivening.”
–Richard Eder, New York Times

“Evokes, with Poe-like mastery, the fog of apprehension that seeps into a small town after the murder of a young girl.”
–Megan O’Grady, Vogue

“Overwhelmingly compelling . . . Ostensibly a murder mystery, this novel soars above such a restrictive definition. It is an impeccable visit to times past . . . As riveting as the story line is, the setting, ambience, and lovely language . . . partner to flavor this novel with punch and spice.”

“Claudel’s little gem of a debut novel is, in essence, a whodunit. . . Psychologically complex, elegantly written and tightly plotted, this is far from your average policier.”
Publishers Weekly

“The novel earned Claudel the 2003 Prix Renaudot. In this lyrical yet earthy translation, it’s easy to see why: tales of murder, torture, and suicide unfold gradually, like the petals of a poisonous flower, delivering staggering plot twists up to the final page . . . The novel’s true genius lies in its ability to explore war’s effects on civilians without resorting to clichés or excessive gore.”
Library Journal

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