Author(s): David Foenkinos; Sam Taylor (translator)
By turns farcical and moving, The Mystery of Henri Pick is a fast-paced comic mystery enriched by a deep love of books – and of the authors who write them.
In the small town of Crozon in Brittany, a library houses manuscripts that were rejected for publication; the faded dreams of aspiring writers. Visiting while on holiday, young editor Delphine Despero is thrilled to discover a novel so powerful that she feels compelled to bring it back to Paris to publish it.
The book is a sensation, prompting fevered interest in the identity of its author – apparently one Henri Pick, a now-deceased pizza chef from Crozon. Sceptics cry that the whole thing is a hoax: how could this man have written such a masterpiece? An obstinate journalist, Jean-Michel Rouche, heads to Brittany to investigate....
The Mystery of Henri Pick is the first novel in Pushkin Press' 'Walter Presents' series - all handpicked by Walter Iuzzolino from around the world.
It has sold over 500,000 copies in France, been translated into 17 languages, and made into a successful French feature film.
Brilliant young editor Delphine and her aspiring author boyfriend Frederic visit a peculiar library in Crozon, France – one that houses the failed manuscripts of authors destined never to be published. With an eye for these things, Delphine spots a hidden masterpiece penned by none other than the town’s now deceased pizza chef, Henri Pick, a taciturn fellow never seen to read a book.
The plot, as they say, thickens. A media frenzy ensues and the book, entitled The Last Hours of a Love Affair, is published and becomes a sought after bestseller. Henri’s widow is dismayed by how her silent, hardworking husband could have found the time to write a book. His daughter, Josephine, revels in the limelight. Literary critic Rouche smells a rat and launches an investigation into the identity of the writer. Original librarian Gourvec seems to have a curious past and his protegee come successor Magali’s life is turned upside down.
This is a delight. The tone is light and playful, the mystery intriguing and gently teased out. The many peripheral characters have their lives altered radically by the book’s publication. Old hurts resurface, histories and misconceptions are exposed and truths uncovered. Each character is brought strikingly to life; we feel their frustrations, heartbreaks and unreasonable irritations. Delphine sails through the book, holding it together, bantering lightly and seeing her project through to fruition.
Translated from the French, this novel doesn’t miss a step. Insouciantly Gallic, it breathes a little absurd fun into a few evening’s reading. A treat.