Monday 1 November 2021

The Scorpion's Head by Hilde Vandermeeren t. @Laura_Wat #TheScorpionsHead @WalterPresents @PushkinPress #BookReview #TranslatedFiction


Something bad happened to that child.
And it was because of you.

When Gaelle wakes up, the nightmare begins. She is lying injured in a psychiatric hospital in Berlin, with no memory of the tense holiday weekend she has just spent with her family. Her son is in a coma in a different hospital - and the police think she tried to kill him. Gaelle is sure she is innocent. But can she prove it?

Michael is a contract killer working for Scorpio, a shadowy organisation of hitmen led by the ruthless Dolores. Any agent who breaks the rules signs their own death warrant. When his latest assignment stirs up old memories, Michael refuses to do the job - and starts to run for his life.

Soon, both Gaelle and Michael will discover exactly what they are capable of doing to survive.

The Scorpion's Head by Hilde Vandermeeren was published by Pushkin Press, as part of the Walter Presents series on 7 October 2021 and is translated from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

This is the first book by Hilde Vandermeeren that I've read and I really hope that more of her work gets translated into English as I enjoyed every single thrilling moment of it. 

This is classic crime at its very best, with a plot that takes the reader on a twisted journey and characters who are both enigmatic and compelling. It's a journey into the dark underworld of the contract killer (quite literally at times!) coupled with an interesting look at the psychology of motherhood and how what one has always believed can be turned on its head. 

Two main characters lead this story; Gaelle; a wife and mother who wakes up in a psychiatric hospital where she's suspected of trying to kill her small son. There's also Michael; a cold-blooded contract killer and master of disguise. Michael has worked for Scorpio, the organisation led by the shadowy figure known only as Dolores for many years. He's never failed on a mission and his victim count over the years is staggering. However, the order to kill a child stirs up memories from his youth and maybe it's time for Michael to stop. Dolores and her team have other ideas. 

Not only is this a fast paced, exciting and at time, nail-biting crime thriller, it is also an interesting glance into the past, especially that of Michael, and gives depth to the characters that only add to the story. High powered and frantic chases, including below the streets of Paris and through the dense forests of rural Poland add such a thrill to the story, which is brilliantly translated by Laura Watkinson. 

I was glued to this one, and read it over the weekend, hardly glancing up as I followed Gaelle and Micheal through the pages. Certainly a page turner, and one for lovers of crime fiction.

Hilde Vandermeeren (b. 1970) wrote a wide range of books for children and young adults before
becoming a thriller writer. 

Within a short space of time she has become a major voice within Flemish crime writing: her debut crime novel was shortlisted for the Gouden Strop prize and the follow-up won the Hercule Poirot prize. 

A trained psychologist, she specialises in psychological thrillers that are tightly and cinematically structured.

Laura Watkinson (b. 1969) studied medieval and modern languages at Oxford University. In 2000,
she gained a postgraduate certificate in literary translation from Dutch into English from University College London and she has worked as a translator ever since. 

She has a particular interest in children’s literature and founded the Dutch chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Twitter @Laura_Wat

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