No 335 The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau by Graeme Macrae Burnet for #ReadIndies 2023

Following my enjoyment of Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet, which I read last summer, I decided to go back to his debut for #ReadIndies run by Lizzy and Kaggsy during February.

The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau is a playful mix of solid detective story and compelling character study which skilfully comes together to create a captivating psychological thriller.

Manfred Baumann is a creature of habit. A bank manager who lives alone in the nondescript town of Saint-Louis, he eats twice a day at the same restaurant, orders the same food, drinks a carafe of wine one glass at a time despite paying twice as much, plays poker with the three other regulars one night a week and has a regular appointment at the local brothel which features a brief and very specific ritual. The Restaurant de la Cloche once belonged to Manfred’s parents, but they lost the business and their son now remains as an awkward reminder of their failure. Manfred is the type of man for whom changing his regular lunch order is a reckless act and complimenting a waitress on her appearance, almost unthinkable.

The waitress in question is Adèle Bedeau, a sullen young woman on whom Manfred has a crush, more thanks to habitual proximity rather than anything else.  One night, he decides to follow her home and watches as she meets a young man and rides off on his motorbike. His timing is unfortunate because the next morning, Adèle doesn’t show up for work. When Inspector Georges Gorksi, a local officer who once had bigger ambitions, questions Manfred, he is so embarrassed about spying on the girl that he lies about having seen her the night before.

What benefit would there have been in divulging what he had seen? More questions would certainly have followed. He would become involved in the investigation and Manfred did not like to be involved in anything. And where, after all, did the truth end?

Gorski has a feeling that Manfred is lying and he comes under suspicion. Despite having nothing to do with Adèle’s disappearance, Manfred is hiding something, something from his past that unwittingly connects him to Gorski and leads to unintended consequences for both men.

Interestingly, the actual disappearance of Adèle Bedeau isn’t a hugely important or interesting part of this book, which is centred instead on the relationship between Manfred and Gorski, both of whom are battling their own demons and feelings of inadequacy. Gorski’s wife always wanted her husband to be more ambitious but he has been haunted by an unsolved case in his past, which has stifled his confidence in his own abilities. Manfred’s past actions have led to a lifetime of guilt and solitude, feelings he can only assuage by living a life of dulling routine.

Burnet takes his time to explore the rationale of these two men both stymied by their past actions or inactions without sacrificing pace and narrative drive. He has created a crime novel where the mystery is merely the starting point for a wider and deeper exploration of lives that have failed to reach fulfilment due to nature or circumstance, or a mix of both.  His sense of place is detailed and precise, creating a world where few linger and most want to leave. An afterword adds another layer of metaphysical enjoyment as Burnet presents his provincial French mystery as a translation of a book by one ‘Raymond Brunet’ and he goes so far as to create a substantial back story for Brunet, which has eerie echoes to that of Manfred Baumann.

In France, the novel has been almost continuously in print since its publication in 1982, and since Claude Chabrol’s screen version in 1989, it has achieved the status of a cult classic.

It adds another layer of enjoyable subtext to a novel, which presents a satisfying mix of action, character development and intrigue.

The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau by Graeme Macrae Burnet is published by Saraband, an award-winning is an award-winning independent publisher of outstanding fiction, absorbing nature writing, pressing environmental issues and compelling memoir.

Praised in the Guardian as “a small but brilliant independent press,” we publish authors with deep knowledge of the culture, local landscapes, wildlife, folk traditions and history wherever they live. Our fiction includes literary, historical and contemporary stories reflecting UK and international perspectives, all with unforgettable voices. Our books inspire, inform and entertain, each helping to make the world a better place.


The 746

Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

18 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I found Case Study first and loved it so much that I devoured the rest of GMB’s work in short order. You’ve given a great description of all of his work I think – dynamic character studies that somehow also have compelling plots. It reminds me of my favorite books from my adolescence, The Stranger and Crime and Punishment.
    The Accident on A35 yet might be my favorite of GMB. Now that I have nothing left of his to read, I will check out more from the publisher – thanks for the rec!


    • The Accident on A35 is the last one I have left of his to read, so I’m going to savour it! He is coming to my work next month to do an in conversation event, so I’ll make sure to ask him when his next book will be out!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Fran McBookface

Blethering all things books

Tasmanian Bibliophile @Large

'Inside a book is a different world...'


A friendly space for all horror, mystery & speculative fiction lovers

Plucked from the Stacks

book reviews and chatter

The Intrepid Arkansawyer

The Intrepid Angeleno is presently in Arkansas.

Books and Me!

All things Bookish and more!

Lizzie Ross

Reading, writing, dreaming

Book of Secrets

A Book Review Blog

%d bloggers like this: