The valley, Bernard Minier’s latest novel, comes out in bookstores this week. After a getaway to Hong Kong two years ago with M, the edge of the abyss, a futuristic thriller featuring a young computer scientist, a Chinese digital giant and a malicious AI, the author reconnects with his native Pyrenees and his familiar heroes: Martin Servaz, a tired policeman about to be suspended, who finds his colleague constable Irene Ziegler crossed in Ice (the author’s first book, published in 2011). So we plunge back into the heavy and oppressive atmosphere of the steep valleys, as winter approaches and an invisible killer prowls. Suspense and style perfectly mastered, touching characters, and once again a “fucking story” to use the title of one of his previous opus. The keys to a probable success shot at 130,000 copies in three questions.
How does Minier make our blood run cold?
A frozen mountain lake. A naked tied victim who is gutted before the assassin leaves him with, planted in the middle of the viscera, a plastic baby… Bernard Minier takes care of his first paragraphs and the staging of his murders. We remember in Glacé the dantesque vision of a beheaded horse at the top of a cable car, the corpse of a woman disguised as a communion in Sisters or of this teacher drowned and tied up in her bathtub, a flashlight buried in the throat … (The circle). So many kills with a strong biblical connotation that pass the paintings of Jerome Bosch for gracious drawings of children …
And the mountain, does it win you?
But beyond these infernal visions (a classic of this type of literature, it must be recognized, cf. The Crimson Rivers Jean-Christophe Grangé or the thrillers of Giacometti and Ravenne), it is above all the environment that “freezes the heart” and creates in Minier this feeling of fear and permanent anxiety. Misty valleys, horizons barred by the black mountains, an inhospitable nature where the men huddled (confined?) In their villages seem tiny and powerless. The Pyrenees of Minier are a character in their own right, evil and omnipresent. And when the investigation leads the policeman to visit buildings, the discomfort continues with its windswept convents, its abandoned sawmills, the psychiatric psychiatric concrete institutes …
Another story of a psychopathic killer?
Yes and no … Certainly, the shadow of serial killer Julian Hirtmann, whom the duo Servaz-Ziegler had tracked in these mountains, still hangs over the lost valley where this new game is played. But half a dozen characters with troubled characters are also guilty, until the outcome which, once again, will blow the reader of the most jaded thrillers. And then, as in previous novels, we focus especially on the twists and turns of the investigation and on the hero, Martin Servaz, fifty-something depressed, humanist lost in a provincial France plagued by poverty, withdrawal and social networks – one of Bernard Minier’s obsessions that he tackled with his techno side in M, the edge of the abyss.
The valley XO éditions, 450 pp., € 21.90 (ebook: € 13.99).