07 Apr The Messenger by Megan Davis
Enter a Paris you never dreamed existed
I was intrigued by the sell on this book before I came to read it – a young man in Paris, freed after serving seven years for a crime he did not commit, sets out to discover the truth about his murdered father, and uncovers a tissue of corruption in high echelons.
It sounds like a thriller – and in many ways it is – but it would be a disservice to this story to categorise it as crime or thriller fiction only.
For me, it was as much about the characters as the plot, and in particular the relationship between Alex Giraud and his journalist father Eddie.
The story unfolds in two parallel times – one setting the scene for Eddie’s death; the other following Alex when he is released from prison.
The events of the past show there’s no question that Eddie is domineering, harsh and demanding. He wants and expects his son to do brilliantly at school, but his method of stick versus carrot only succeeds in alienating Alex.
At the same time, Eddie’s working and private life do not bear close scrutiny. He’s angry and bitter at ex-colleagues, but not averse to sleeping with their wives.
The seamier side of Paris’s underworld
Alex’s teenage rebellion takes him to the seamier side of Paris’s underworld, where his behaviour leads him to the tragic events of the night of Eddie’s murder. But all through their trial and subsequent imprisonment, Alex and his street friend Sami swear they had only robbed Eddie, not killed him.
Someone must have come after him once they’d left his apartment. Or maybe, Alex suggested in a vain attempt to save his own skin, Sami did murder Eddie.
Now with Sami is still in prison, Alex is looking constantly over his shoulder, afraid of his former friend’s revenge. But he has more to fear than Sami when he discovers his father was working on something big before he died, something that would rock people in high places, something that he, too, might conceivably be killed for.
It seems those people are still willing to go to any lengths to protect their secrets, and Alex finds himself facing deadly danger. Will he get at the truth before it is too late?
Alex can’t see beyond his own teenage need for rebellion
So far, so thrilling, though I have to confess I found the various threads of the plot difficult to fathom at times, involving as they do corruption, fake new and civil unrest.
But the emotional pull of Alex’s journey from surly teenager to a young man faithful to his quest to bring justice for his father is what drew me in and kept me reading.
He is an exquisitely observed character whom any mother will recognise – though maybe not his own, who has neglected him since childhood.
His father really is all he has, but Alex can’t see beyond his own teenage need for rebellion and peer acceptance to recognise that Eddie loves him deeply.
Starved of any outward show of affection, he turns inward on himself, seeking solace in bad company which leads him to a life of crime.
And yet he is a very sympathetic character, whom I cared very deeply about from the opening page, before I even accepted he was innocent of the crime he’d been found guity of.
I also empathised with Eddie, a far less sympathetic character, but still a great portrayal of a man whose strength and weaknesses have led him down some strange paths.
Finally, for me what made this book so readable was the utterly gripping glimpse into the seamier side of Paris. I’ve only ever seen the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the restaurants and the shows.
But in the suburbs and the side streets, there is poverty and hardship, people who have nothing, and subsequently have nothing to lose. The description is stunningly realistic, and you can’t look away.
A powerful story which offers the reader far more than the surface plot, and a great debut from Megan Davis.
The Messenger is published by Bonnier in hardback and ebook
About the Author
Megan Davis was born in Australia and grew up in mining towns across the world. She has worked in the film industry and her credits include Atonement, In Bruges, Pride and Prejudice and the Bourne films. Megan is also a lawyer and is currently an associate at Spotlight on Corruption. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Her debut The Messenger won the Bridport Prize for a First Novel in 2018, judged by Kamila Shamsie, as well as the Lucy Cavendish Prize for unpublished writers in 2021. She has lived in many places, including France for a number of years, but now lives in London.
Thanks to Tracy of Compulsive Readers for inviting me along on this tour, and to publishers Bonnier Zaffre and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book. Catch up with the rest of the blogtour through the links on the poster.
More Reviews of Thriller Books