The Great Swindle
October 1918: the war on the Western Front is all but over. Desperate for one last chance of promotion, the ambitious Lieutenant Henri d'Aulnay Pradelle sends two scouts over the top, and secretly shoots them in the back to incite his men to heroic action once more. And so is set in motion a series of devastating events that will inextricably bind together the fates and fortunes of Pradelle and the two soldiers who witness his crime: Albert Maillard and Edouard Pericourt. Back in civilian life, Albert and Edouard struggle to adjust to a society whose reverence for its dead cannot quite match its resentment for those who survived. But the two soldiers conspire to enact an audacious form of revenge against the country that abandoned them to penury and despair, with a scheme to swindle the whole of France on an epic scale. Meanwhile, believing her brother killed in action, Edouard's sister Madeleine has married Pradelle, who is running a little scam of his own...
The vast sweep of the novel and its array of extraordinary secondary characters have attracted comparisons with the works of Balzac. Moving, angry, intelligent - and compulsive -- Marcel Berlins The Times A big, swirling tale that itself reads like a 19th-century novel ... thick with detail, immersing the reader in its elaborately bleak world -- Sarah Lyall New York Times This book is thick with detail, immersing the reader in its elaborately bleak world ... an irresistible story -- Patricia Wall New York Times Exceptionally powerful examination of the aftermath of war and of the people whose lives were washed away in its wake -- Nick Rennison Sunday Times Lemaitre's novel is a rare synthesis of the tragic and the comic - a masterclass in nail-biting suspense ... Frank Wynne is a superb translator who captures the rude exuberance of the original French -- Edward Wilson Independent Lemaitre's deadpan ironic tone is beautifully caught by his regular translator Frank Wynne. A kind of Ealing comedy with a bruised but still beating heart, this is the most purely enjoyable book I've read this year -- Jake Kerridge Sunday Express A fast-paced tale, filled with twists and turns, following a mischievous, disillusioned view of post-war France -- Astrid de Larminat Figaro A masterly epic of post-war France, where impostures triumph and capitalists grow rich from the ruins -- Macha Sery Le Monde You feel the author's indignation ... Who really profits from war? Crooks, the vengeful and frauds: The Great Swindle is political as much as it is picaresque -- Christine Ferniot Telerama A dark, burning requiem delivered in glorious prose that is as tough and effective as a punch in the face ... Read this riotous novel: it will leave you stunned -- Francois Busnel Express
Pierre Lemaitre was born in Paris in 1951. He worked for many years as a teacher of literature before becoming a novelist. He was awarded the Crime Writers' Association International Dagger, alongside Fred Vargas, for Alex. In 2013 his novel Au revoir la-haut (The Great Swindle, in English translation) won the Prix Goncourt, France's leading literary award.