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"This by-the-pulses thriller by a talented new writer promises a body of work that will provide a new generation with maximum satisfaction."
Robert Stone, Author of Dog Soldiers, Damascus Gate etc.
 
 
"Leclere fashioned Lombard into one of the more memorable crime fiction character of late ... The Lost Son is a first rate story with Lombard the unforgettable star ... A rare find..."
Larry Chollet - The Bergen Record (New Jersey)
 
 
"... A stylish and gripping first novel ... [the film is] a total waste of a great character like Lombard..."
Cosmo Landesman - The Sunday Times
 
"... The Lost Son is the story of French Detective Xavier Lombard ... Leclere has created in Lombard a man with the same headstrong integrity and occasional pig-headedness of Chandler's Marlowe ... a compelling and rounded character who has you rooting for him from the word go. His investigation is filled with twists and turns which leave you begging for more..."
Catherine Etoe - The Camden New Journal
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Title: The Lost Son
Author: Eric Leclere
Published Year: 1999
Format: Paperback, 438 Pages
Cover Artwork by Doggo
ISBN: 0953556204
RRP: £9.99
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"The hero of Leclere's hard-to-put-down novel, the Gitane-smoking Xavier Lombard, a French private detective living in seedy lodgings in North London, is employed by an elderly Jewish German couple to track down their missing son. Lombard stumbles on an horrific story of children being bought and sold to satisfy the sexual perversions of rich men. The plot can be dispensed with in a couple of lines and, although Leclere certainly knows how to tell a story, it is his style that is absolutely compelling. Having a French detective at the centre of the book gives the author the chance to examine London life with a certain detachment. Leclere makes the reader look anew at the dingy streets, the parks and shops of North London. Lombard lives among the working class and the social dropouts, listening to their stories of loneliness and sexual fantasy, while at the same time exploring an international trade in human flesh.His gift is an ability to interconnect the two worlds. Lombardís neighbour confesses that he watches a teenage girl who believes she is alone in her bathroom.
 
From this shabby, second-hand experience, Lombard is thrown into a far more corrupt world where Third World children are sold, used for sex, and then murdered. Never sensational and always deeply moral, the narrative delves into a world of Nazi-hunters and flesh-peddlers, setting it against the half-remembered dreams of personal tragedy:
flashbacks reveal Lombard is emotionally destroyed because his wife and son were murdered.
The reader learns about Lombard's appearance not from the authorial voice but through interaction with others. For example, it becomes clear Lombard is attractive to both sexes. In a pub, two gay men make admiring comments which he satirically rebuffs. (He is clearly heterosexual but, it is work, rather than sex, which obsesses him.) Leclere has created a flawed hero unable to connect to anyone or to commit to love, along with a complex set of characters. Flitting through the narrative is Lombardís ex-girlfriend, Nathalie, an addict and part-time prostitute. Only with Nathalie is there a recognition of a kind of code of honour among the emotionally brutalised. The most complex character is the child-peddler, Martin, who delivers an existential speech on the virtues of the Swiss cuckoo clock. (The cuckoo is, of course, a metaphor for those who abandon their young.) There are several lost boys. There is the son Lombard has lost to the world of crime; the boy rescued from the child-traffickers - and Leonard, the lost son of Holocaust survivors. Lombard, too, is a lost boy, forced to live away from his native country. The novel is a hymn to lost innocence, written with intelligence and flair."
 
Julia Pascal - The Jewish Chronicle, London
 


From us:

This first novel by Eric Leclere may be a crime novel, it may be a private detective story, it may also have a gripping plot which keeps you hooked and a central character, Xavier Lombard, who is firmly in the old-fashioned hero mold and with whom, once acquainted, you very much want to remain intimate. But as so often with the best crime novels, it attains what so many literary novels fail to achieve - those dark poetic moments, both frightening and uplifting, that cause the chest to constrict around the heart and induce a strange sense of pride in being human.

Yet Xavier Lombard is not a man one really ought to wish to know. An ex-Paris cop whose own past contains a story so terrible that, when it is revealed, it almost belittles the horror of child traffic that appears to be at the core of his missing persons investigation, Lombard is capable of extreme violence. Especially when, as in this case, the predator in him is awoken. In many other ways, Lombard is like a man already dead: without aspiration or hope for the future, without much interest in material things, lonely (none of this is explicit - it emerges almost inadvertently, as when, watching a cat grooming itself, he idly muses as to whether his landlord would allow him to keep a cat in the building). Yet he is polite, sane, hard-working when employed... He smokes too much, hardly drinks, likes his clothes clean and pressed, finds small-talk difficult...

Lombard lives in London - because he cannot return to France - above a butcher's shop on an unfashionable High Street where businesses are slowly dying because of the supermarkets. Recruited by his butcher-landlord, he plays football with the local shopkeepers' team and he has their respect if not their understanding. His upstairs neighbor, Jane, is clearly infatuated with him and, though he likes her, he sometimes has to resort to cruelty to keep her at arm's length. He also has Nathalie, who he once refers to as his 'girlfriend', although they do not live together and seem to do nothing but sneer angrily at each other when they do meet. This is perhaps because Nathalie is a heroin addict and a call girl, both occupations Lombard disapproves of. But he has no handle on her. She is almost a female version of himself. They need to meet, but not for very long at a time. But Nathalie's connections help when Lombard finds himself having to deal with the world of organized child trafficking and for once he uses her. The story revolves around a missing "poor-little-rich-boy", the thirty plus son of a wealthy Hampstead family, the Spitzes. Although it is the old Spitzes who instigate the investigation, it is with the missing man's petulant older sister, Deborah De Moraes, that Lombard mostly has to deal. She hardly seems to care about her brother's disappearance, reckons he's back on drugs, and initially refuses to listen when Lombard confronts her with her brothers connection with 'the Austrian' who sells children to anyone who'll pay the price (this aspect, the commercial, entrepreneurial aspect of crime, is particularly chilling and, being so hard and cold, so politely business-like, it somehow manages to deal powerfully with the subject of child exploitation without being itself either exploitative, titillating - however painfully - or bleeding-heart). You may wonder why, when a £6m movie based on Leclere's original screenplay and starring Daniel Auteuil was released around the same time as the book, there was no mention of the film anywhere on the book. Indeed, Leclere has consistently refused to endorse the movie in any way whatsoever, considering it a gross misrepresentation of his original work.

As Anne Billson put it in her Sunday Telegraph review of the film : "Eric Leclere, who wrote the novel on which this was based, has disowned it, and you can't really blame him."


 
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