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Baudelaire's Revenge - 2014


Baudelaire's Revenge is also the winner of the Hercule Poirot Prize for best suspense novel of the year


It is 1870, and Paris is in turmoil. As the social and political turbulence of the Franco-Prussian War roils the city, workers starve to death while aristocrats seek refuge in orgies and séances. The Parisians are trapped like rats in their beautiful city but a series of gruesome murders captures their fascination and distracts them from the realities of war. The killer leaves lines from the recently deceased Charles Baudelaire’s controversial anthology Les Fleurs du Mal on each corpse, written in the poet’s exact handwriting. Commissioner Lefevre, a lover of poetry and a veteran of the Algerian war, is on the case, and his investigation is a thrilling, intoxicating journey into the sinister side of human nature, bringing to mind the brooding and tense atmosphere of Patrick Susskind’s Perfume. Did Baudelaire rise from the grave? Did he truly die in the first place? The plot dramatically appears to extend as far as the court of the Emperor Napoleon III.

A vivid, intelligent, and intense historical crime novel that offers up some shocking revelations about sexual mores in 19th century France, this superb mystery illuminates the shadow life of one of the greatest names in poetry. Winner of the Hercule Poirot Prize for best crime novel of the year. 

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Paris police commissioner Paul Lefèvre, robust and hirsute, hardly seems like a poetry lover. Nonetheless, he instantly recognizes the messages accompanying murder victims killed in flamboyant ways as excerpts from poems by the scandalous, recently deceased poet Baudelaire. Is this gruesomely inventive serial killer exacting revenge on Baudelaire’s enemies? Paris is in an uproar in 1870. The Franco-Prussian War is on full boil, the poor are hungry and insurrectional, and the decadent rich are partying. As Lefèvre and longtime comrade Inspector Bernard Bouveroux—they served together as soldiers in Algiers—seek to stop this diabolical, perhaps otherwordly serial killer, the philosophical Lefèvre is haunted by traumatic memories of war and a childhood abomination. He is also longing for his sharp-witted beloved, the now-missing prostitute Claire de la Lune. In this superbly crafted Hercule Poirot Prize–winning mystery, Dutch writer Van Laerhoven vividly and astutely evokes a city under siege and keenly portrays the complex and controversial Baudelaire(...) He also constructs a sexually explicit gothic tale of monstrous urges and violently broken taboos. (Donna Seaman - Booklist)

“[An] intense historical crime thriller. The intricate plot, menacing atmosphere, and rich evocations of period Paris have undeniable power.” (Publishers Weekly)

Van Laerhoven packs much complexity into 256 pages, giving this historical mystery the heft of a far longer work ( …) The book’s main preoccupation is the conclusive demonstration that everyone is guilty of something—the only mystery is, to what degree? The flowers of evil, sketched in lurid botanical detail…. (Kirkus Reviews)

 It’s 1870, the eve of the Franco-Prussian war. The poor are living in misery and the working classes are growing desperate, but the intellectuals and aristocrats (“people without soul or conscience”) are avidly pursuing their debaucheries  and an artistic killer is embellishing his obscene handiwork with verses of “Les Fleurs du Mal”. This bizarre case appeals to the dissolute sensibility of Commissioner Paul Lefèvre whose own twin passions are poetry and women of “sinister unpredictability and uncivilized morals.” Lefèvre’s philosophical discussions with artists and poets and a creepy Belgian dwarf are fascinating(….)(Marilyn Stasio – New York Times Book Review – Sunday crime column )

The plot leads readers into some truly twisted tales of sex and violence, evocative of Baudelaire’s own writings and positioned against the true story of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71."Baudelaire’s Revenge” is a more disturbing duel with the devil than "The DaVinci Code," with a cast of flawed, tormented characters who would have felt welcome in the company of Baudelaire himself. (Maureen McCarthy - StarTribune - 

Don’t Miss This Flemish Thriller Set In Paris! (…) Van Laerhoven’s written a colorful, complex, atmospheric, darkly sensual crime thriller set in a period I know through Zola novels like Pot Luck, The Kill, and The Ladies’ Paradise (….)the novel turns on dark, nasty, sublimely twisted secrets (….) This is a book where poetry and perversity reign, with a deft nod to Edgar Allen Poe (….) le tout Paris seems on the verge of hysteria, a breakdown, or revolution. And over everything, the increasingly gruesome murders drift like the foul miasma of a sewer (….)Baudelaire wrote that travel teaches bitter lessons (amer savoir, celui qu’on tire de voyage), but for fans of international crime fiction, travel via thrillers only broadens our horizons. And as Laerhoven’s poetry-quoting, lust-driven inspector says, “murder sensitizes people to the mysteries that lurk behind everyday life.” Tragic, but true. Then and now…. (Lev Raphael – The Huffington Post-

“I enjoyed “Baudelaire’s Revenge” very much, and thought it both imaginative and innovative. Laerhoven evokes the atmosphere very well, and there was about it an aura that Baudelaire would have savored too.”  (Professor Rosemary Helen Lloyd, author of “Baudelaire’s World”)

While the main narrative of Flemish author Laerhoven’s English-language debut is a conventional one of policemen pursuing a serial killer, albeit one who considers murder “an amoral work of art”, the novel also functions as a superb historical tale of an embattled city, as Napoleon III’s France finds itself at war not only with Prussia but also with subversive elements in Paris itself. There are also strong gothic-horror overtones, courtesy of a manuscript left behind by the killer, in which Baudelaire’s themes of sex and death are writ large. The flamboyantly lurid tone is hugely entertaining, although its excesses are leavened by Laerhoven’s depictions of his competent, dogged investigators, hardened veterans of France’s military adventures in north Africa and men who, for the most part, “prefer discretion to good morals”. .. (Crime-writer Declan Burke in The Irish Times -

Published for the first time in English, this roman policier isn't so much a straight detective story (although there are two detectives in it) as an evocation of a mind-set that now seems extravagant: the 19th-century poet's fascination with sex and death. It's no wonder this title won the Hercule Poirot Prize: the author is Belgian, as is the prize, and the twisted plot is as complicated as Agatha Christie's most convoluted mystery. Mystery aficionados will love this pastiche of Wilkie Collins and Edgar Allan Poe (...) - David Keymer, Modesto, CA  (Library Journal). 

(...)this gritty, detail-rich historical mystery novel involves the reader in a subtle narrative web. Van Laerhoven weaves in some of this historical period's favorite supernatural elements--magic, exotic poisons, séances and ghosts--to create an eerie, fin-de-siècle atmosphere worthy of Poe, Joris-Karl Huysmans and other "decadent" writers of that era. This complex mystery from an award-winning Belgian author joins history and literary history to create a sly, smart revenge tale.  (Tom Lavoie - Shelf Awareness Pro)

“The Belgian Boris Akunin…Dark and entertaining.”  (Goodreads)

(...) In this sometimes gruesome, always fascinating, and uncommonly well-crafted novel of 19th century Paris, author Van Laerhoven does a masterful job of evoking the dark atmosphere and mores of an era. (Readers+Writers Journal) 

Here’s the thing about murder mysteries: they are either intricate Chinese puzzles that delve deep into the darkest shadows of decayed human souls, or they’re utter shit whose authors and publishers should be lynched for paper abuse. Baudelaire’s Revenge not only is in the former, better class, it is that truly rare species of a truly literary murder mystery (….)It  has long been my suspicion that when a socially and politically clued-in writer sets his narrative in the past, it is because she or he actually intends to reveal the present while avoiding the turgid mud of active political discussion with all its on-going Presidents, organizations, media and headlines. Nothing ages quite so quickly as a novel set in the present day.(….) The past  exhibits a far more provocative analysis of the present than the actual present can ever hope to achieve. Oh and it is gloriously subversive (…) a reader is drawn into Baudelaire’s Revenge world of perversity, constant war, the haunting memories of recently fought desert campaigns and class struggle without a light bulb of discovery switched on(…) It may be true that Baudelaire’s Revenge is not a novel for the weak of heart, or those who prefer their entertainment prissily non-sexual, however I might suggest to those people that modern life must not be very appealing to them either. Bob Van Laerhoven presented us a world well worth walking into, to notice that the streets (of 1870 Paris) look much like our own. (Author Hubert O’ Hearn in The San Diego Book Review: )

 This tale is tethered to the destructive forces of war, greed, anarchy and the secrets lurking in nighttime Paris, where only the brave or the dangerous walk the streets. The wealthy hide behind the false glitter of the court, fear obliterated by alcohol, drugs and whatever pleasure presents itself. Reflecting frequently on their years in Algeria, Lefevre and Bouveroux are painfully aware of the dark side of humanity and the ways of corruption, Paris a seething cauldron of mystical influences and exoticism. The line between their days and nights all but disappears as the killings continue, each more gruesome and elaborate than the last. Baudelaire’s dark thoughts and poetic angst, not to mention his wastrel lifestyle, permeate the novel with a sense of looming doom. (Luan Gaines - Curled Up With A Good

For those who like historical crime novels with a twist, Baudelaire's Revenge is a literary mystery that trawls through the unsavory side of human nature.  (Cindy A. Matthews

If you like kinky and perverse sex, convoluted and labyrinthine plots, horrific but artfully staged murders, the alleyways and dives of Paris in 1870, with the Prussians about to sack the city, obsession, incest, raw desire, worldly ennui, aristocrats making drunken fools of themselves at costumed balls, and all the other shenanigans that go on in this riveting, fascinating and “very French” mystery’s “toxic abyss,” then this is the book for you (...) I can’t reveal much, but Van Laerhoven, who first published this novel, which won the coveted Hercule Poirot Prize, in Dutch in 2007, creates a splendidly decadent and noxious atmosphere as Paris is about to fall. Socialism’s on the rise. The memoir of the murderer reveals shocking tales of sexually sadistic nuns, con artists, killers, thieves, spiritual mediums, bisexual revels and cranks of all kinds (...) Van Laerhoven’s prose is rich and perceptive, filled with philosophical and metaphysical speculations amid the blood and other bodily fluids (...) This is a terrific mystery(...) (Providence Journal - Sam Coale  teaches American literature at Wheaton College)

In Baudelaire’s Revenge  by Bob Van Laerhoven, the Prussian encirclement is merely the outer ring of hell. Many other circles spin within it. Belgian author Bob Van Laerhoven won his country’s Hercule Poirot Prize for best detective novel with Baudelaire’s Revenge. And he has brought together all the elements of a classic policier — the atmosphere of dread, the underworld filled with dangerous and duplicitous suspects, a detective as flawed as the criminals, and corpses, lots of corpses. But this is not a conventional detective novel. While the story moves quickly, it is less about detection and deduction than about characters revealing their dreams and despair. Van Laerhoven is after something more than the simple solution to the crime, and his ambition carries the reader along.(….) Baudelaire’s Revenge works because Van Laerhoven has created so many characters whose inner lives are as darkly fascinating as Baudelaire’s own poetry. (…) it is a journey worth taking to the heart of a strange, death-obsessed place where a dead poet still dwells in his writing... (William Martin - - Washington Independent Review of Books) 

... The life, art, and personality of the fabled French poet are felt on every page of the novel. (…) though its candid treatments of sexual issues may not suit every reader, Baudelaire’s Revenge is not merely startling, much less sensationalist; from its darkest themes to its moments of dry wit, it is richly imagined, intricately plotted, carefully researched, and undeniably distinctive.  (Suzanne Fox – Society Nineteen)

Ross Macdonald, one of the pioneers of the hard-boiled mystery novel, once posited the theory that the modern detective story flows from Baudelaire, who, it should be noted, translated Poe and felt a deep emotional connection to the man who by most accounts invented detective fiction. Baudelaire’s supposed contribution according to Macdonald was to see the modern city as though it was a model for Dante’s Inferno. It is therefore particularly interesting to have a mystery novel so deeply inhabited by the poet’s ghost as Baudelaire’s Revenge.Baudelaire is not a character in this book, which takes place in 1870, three years after Baudelaire’s death. But Baudelaire’s spirit haunts the Paris of the novel. It is a Paris during the Franco-Prussian war, a Paris where the rich amuse themselves with drugs and liquor and perverse sexual adventures and the poor are hungry and subject to the Prussian shells falling all around. But the Prussians are not in the city yet, and so they only form the outer circle of the novel’s Hell. Baudelaire is at the center of the darkness. (…) Without question, this is an extraordinary book. It is unfair simply to call it well-written. The prose is lush. Here is the first sentence: “Life and death had taught Commissioner Lefevre to love poetry and wenches, and in spite of his fifty-three years, he still wasn’t certain which of the two he admired most.” It’s impossible to stop reading after a sentence like that.
The characters are what make the book. Their inner demons, their wild, dark drives and creative imaginations take us inside Baudelaire in a way that is deeply revealing. (…)
If, as his mother claimed, Baudelaire was furious throughout his life because he had been born, readers of the book will understand why when they experience the dreadful horror he witnessed and see inside these characters’ hearts of darkness.( Five Star Review of Lawrence J. Epstein, author of “The Basic Beliefs of Judaism: A Twenty-first Century Guide to a Timeless Tradition” (Vine Voice –

I  didn’t know what to expect from Bob Van Laerhoven’s Baudelaire’s Revenge, but I’m very pleased to have taken the chance and picked it up. The seediness of the narrative, the clever constructed mystery, and the convoluted character of the novel’s protagonists held true appeal, pulling me out of my world and into the dark underbelly of nineteenth century Paris. As if that weren’t enough, Laerhoven gets major points for creating a mystery I didn’t see coming. Smart and well-crafted. I was on the edge of my seat from the first, as desperate to identify the killer as Lefèvre and Bouveroux. It isn’t often I’m caught unaware and the fact that Laerhoven was able to do this only enhanced my appreciation for the piece.  A gritty and elaborate thriller, Baudelaire’s Revenge presents a perfect blend of fact and fiction. Explicit, but engaging, I greatly enjoyed the time I spent with this book. (Erin Davies – Flashlight Commentary -

I have to confess I  did not know who the killer was! I thought I knew but I was completely wrong!  I really enjoyed this book and thought that the story-line was incredibly well played out.  The two leading characters, Commissioner Lefèvre and inspector Bouveroux, were not  the most commendable characters.  They both seemed very unfeeling and at times removed but I thought that this added to the uneasy feeling surrounding the story.   I also really appreciated how the author was able to show the social inequalities that were very much a big part of Paris during that time.  I usually try to stay away from translations because I think that they sometimes can't capture the cultural nuances in the translated language but this text didn't  suffer from that.  I would not consider this a light story. It is dark and eerie but it was very satisfying.  I really enjoyed and highly recommend this historical mystery! Five Stars….(Diana Silva – Book Nerd)

Bob Van Laerhoven is an accomplished, convoluted mystery writer. That much is evident from the way he sets his scenes, uncovers the various angles, explores all the possible avenues before the end of the story. The mystery (and the blurb) are what drew me to this book in the first place, and Baudelaire's Revenge was a tricky, interesting read from the first. The palpable and tense atmosphere of a Paris at war only adds to the pervading atmosphere, making this a memorable novel. (…)Despite the slim length, the mystery is a complete creation. It's convoluted and unsolvable until the author wants it solved, which is refreshing and frustrating (in a fun way) for readers who like to fancy themselves sleuths (…)  Baudelaire's Revenge succeeded at confusing me and surprising me(….)I finished this novel impressed with the authorial sleight of hand on display. (Jessie – Ageless Pages Reviews) 

Intelligent and intriguing, Baudelaire's Revenge was a historical mystery that not only had me hooked, but forced me to pay close attention as I read.  I wasn't quite expecting the sensuous and seedy nature of some of the characters, but it really added to the uniqueness of what drove them to their actions. Written from several different points of view, the characters that gripped me the most were Lefèvre and the suspected killer.  Lefèvre's memoirs of the Algerian war gripped me and his memories of that time were fascinating; this gave great depth to his character, actions and body of knowledge.  Without giving any spoilers, the writing from one of the suspects point of view was what I found myself looking forward the most.  Their story was surprising, sad and lewd...but I couldn't tear myself away.  As the book was wrapping up, I thought I had the mystery all figured out; however, Van Laerhoven has thrown in a few unexpected loops right at the end which made for an exciting closing. (Stephanie – 100 Pages a Day -

There are great passages from Baudelaire’s poems interspersed, and lots of elements on his sick psyche, his drug taking, his family, also the tough competition between young poets. (...)The historical context with Napoleon III, the Prussian War, and later on La Commune, is wonderfully recreated.  (....) The atmosphere of Paris, with its catacombs, its dirt, its hunger and despair, is so real you would not want to go out by night in Paris if you were there as you read the book! (...)The book starts like a regular mystery, and then it relentlessly plunges and drags you into Baudelaire’s world, a world of depravity, of insane mix of erotic fantasy and pure evil, to which you can add drugs, opium, sadism, and a very sick view of religion.(...)I have to admit the writing is incredibly good, the suspense of the main plots and sub-plots will not let you sleep. And I have rarely read a book that manages so well to drag you down to the depth of its darkness. Definitely not unlike Baudelaire’s Les fleurs du mal, and in that sense this is a real tour de force. I understand why it would have received the prestigious Hercule Poirot Prize for Best Crime Novel. (...) Verdict: In this super atmospheric historical mystery, you will have the opportunity to meet Baudelaire’s world and spirit(...) It was a world of pure madness, of insane fantasy, of sick eroticism. Following very suspenseful plots, you will discover a shocking world superbly re-crafted for you. (

Van Laerhoven’s sentences are so eloquent, each sentence full of life, dripping in details, succulent word choices, and amazing imagery. His writing flows so naturally, but his sentences are not ones that you can read as one whole sentence in one look. It is like you almost must savor each wordt in his sentences as none are filler, all are precisely planted. The characters were flawless in design, such as Lefèvre, who in his imperfect life became the perfect detective, one of whom looks at every minute detail in slow motion, much like Agatha Christie’s Poirot (…) Riddled with anxiety from trauma (much like PTSD today) during war, death and thoughts of death surround Lefèvre. It seems to propel him and I could feel his anguish as much as the down-trodden aura of the vice filled streets of Paris. I felt myself trying to solve the puzzle along with Lefèvre as well as seething at the social climate and culture during this era of France (…)You must know as a reader that there is explicit content in this book, in a strange cobblestone and street lamp sort of way. Imagine modern hardcore sex but in an experimental and crude society. The book also deals with much of the problem of STDs that were stealing so many bodies and especially minds during that period. It worked with the book, especially given Baudelaire’s own writing content, as his writings controversially surrounded sex, death, fear of Satanism, and unmoral  character. It didn’t bother me to read (it would bother me if it happened for real though). It read like a foreign film, which generally are more uncensored. (…) Historically very well-researched, Van Laerhoven really captures the climate and culture of Paris with fervent abandon and authenticity as well as he accurately portrays the political scene. With as much care, he also brought Baudelaire to life, showing how such talented people, yet reaped in poverty during their lifetimes, were wrought with turmoil. This book is not  for the light reader of romance or mysteries. It’s for readers that like to savor a book of high intellect and intent, as well as enjoy intense reading. It’s not a book you’ll flip fast thrugh because it is an event, not just entertainment for an evening. Van Laerhoven’s book deals with common issues through the ages of human nature and intereaction, poor versus rich, political and societal issues, death and dying, and controversial and mad creative people. On top of all those layers, there is a very sophisticated detective story, with a superb plot and an ending I didn’t see coming but completely enjoyed.  I appreciate Van Laerhoven’s ability with his writing to tear of the shell of morality and show the dynamics that lay beneath. (Erin Al-Mehairi - Oh, for the Hook of a Book -

What a thrilling ride back in time! Bob van Laerhoven brought 1870s Paris to life for me. In reading Baudelaire's Revenge I felt completely immersed in the history of that time and became really invested in the wonderfully written cast of characters that he obviously spent a good deal of time on getting to be just right() This book hit all the marks for me. It had a rich historical setting that showed the underbelly of Parisian society while still giving glimmers of hope. I especially loved Commissioner Lefèvre and his dedication to solve the murders as well as loving how his mind worked, I thought he was really fascinating as were the other characters. Each seemed to fit into a certain niche and played a part in the tale. (...)The plot was great, it was engrossing and definitely kept my attention the whole way through and didn't have any lulls or stale parts. The writing was detailed but not in a superfluous way where things were unneeded. Everything just seemed to play a part so nothing was left out in my opinion and nothing was added in that wasn't essential. I liked to see how Lefèvre go about solving the crimes and while I thought I knew who the killer was in the end I was completely wrong, and I LOVED that. It came as a complete surprise for me and really made me love this novel even more. Overall, there wasn't a single thing I didn't enjoy about this novel. At 288 pages Bob van Laerhoven was able to squeeze in a thrilling story that felt much longer (in a good way) because of how well written it was. I will definitely read more by him and I can honestly say that this is one I will be re-reading again. I would recommend this to everyone but I can really see historical fiction and historical mystery fans loving this one. (Turning the Pages- Kimberly) 

This novel took me by complete surprise. (…)What I actually read was a cross between dark mystery, an intense thinker novel, and a thriller. This isn’t a novel that you can leisurely read through and take a ‘mental break’ with. It has a complex story line that if you aren’t paying attention you might get lost in. It actually took me a while to read it though it was short….I needed time to digest what I had just read (…) I am a huge Poe fan and this novel embodied a lot of those same themes, so naturally I read it with more intent rather than rushing through to finish. Though it was heavy on the dark side,  it was surprisingly, a refreshing read! (…) I mean that it was so full of depth and atmosphere that it was intriguing. In the last year or so I’ve read a lot of basic fiction/mysteries with nothing that really stands out about them, but this one really defined itself(…) It was complex with multiple layers. There was a lot of reflection and musing about social divides and shifts not just within the era that the novel is set, but it could mirror modern sentiments as well. I thought Van Laerhoven did a great job conveying a realistic approach to nineteenth century Paris and its people. He captured the political and social climate of the era without having it take over the novel entirely, well done! A large portion of the novel focuses on Baudelaire’s life which became increasingly disturbing due to his syphilis (…) The author does a wonderful job creating the feeling of debauchery and gloom well. (…)I was initially worried about the length of the novel (256 pages). How can you write a fully developed, complex mystery in such a short period of time? Well, Van Laerhoven does it, and never once did I feel like the ending was rushed.  The ending is the Crème de la Crème to be sure! It kept me guessing and was shocking, but yet perfectly fitting for the novel as a whole. I can see why this novel won the Hercule Poirot Prize for Best Crime Novel, it definitely deserved it! (The Lit Bitch -

I read most of this book with my eyes really really wide open. I was wowed by the depth of this book, so yes that is your warning, if your looking for a breeze through read this is not the book for you it will work those little grey cells in the brain, some of it is keeping up with everything that is going on with a pretty large cast of characters and then there is the intellectual prose that unravels a bizarre yet intriguing tale. I will not give anything else away but if you miss all the great mystery writers like Christie and Doyle who challenge you to actually think about what it is that your reading then definitely pick up this book! (

How to describe Baudelaire's Revenge by Bob Van Laerhoven? Let's start by saying that this isn't your average, garden-variety mystery novel. This is something quite different. Van Laerhoven has created a deeply dark, foreboding, squalid, deceptive and completely unfriendly vision of Paris in 1870.This is not a place you would want to walk around in during the day, much less at night - which is when much of the story takes place. But the thing is, the descriptions are such that it is almost impossible to stop reading. This dark story did draw me in -- with dread and foreboding, but I continued on. (…) I found none of the characters to be all that empathetic and certainly not trustworthy - and yet, I was compelled to continue reading. Unreliable narrators abound in this tale. It became quite an interesting experience - wondering if I would ever find out the truth. And then, whose truth would it be? (…)Baudelaire's Revenge presents a dark and grim vision of the world and of humanity. I can't say that everyone would enjoy it, but if you like very dark, gothic mysteries, this may be what you are looking for. Be warned, there is explicit content. I found the book to be dark and disturbing, but ultimately, the mysteries kept me glued to the book to the end. (A Book Geek -

(…)The author manages to seamlessly mix all of these elements together and weave a a gut-wrenching and tragically beautiful story that retains your attention on all fronts. (…) There are no punches pulled here, and a sanitized portrayal of that society at that time is the furthest thing possible from the author's goals.  Instead, he instills an atmosphere of moral rot and decadence, one that depicts the world as a hopeless gutter where all hopes and dreams are washed down (…).Despite the fact that the chase for the killer and the investigation itself take up a large part of the novel, this is certainly not one of those lighter reads you'll go through on the subway. As you would expect with a book that deals in poetry, it is jam-packed with philosophical thoughts on the biggest topics in life, the ones we can talk about endlessly, being able to arrive only to the conclusion that in the end, we only know that we know nothing. If you delve deep enough into it, you will end up reflecting rather profoundly on life and death, the apathy of human beings, the terrifying pitfalls of materialism, the loss of identity in times of great turbulence, just to name a few of them.
To conclude, this book is certainly a remarkable tour de force in the crime genre, providing at the same time an enthralling chase after a theatrically-inclined killer where the reader can't help but try and surpass the protagonist, and a rather deep study of the human character and of the countless questions that have, do, and will keep us all awake at night. Highly recommended for those who seek a lot of depth to their murder mystery-related entertainment.(David Ben Efraim – Quick Book Reviews -

I truly enjoyed reading this fascinating novel by Laerhoven, kept on the end of my seat with each flip of the page. His writing is flowing and concise, lending itself well to being translated into English. I highly recommend this novel if you love mysteries on the style of Jack the Ripper, and if you really like Parisian historical novels. (Kathryn Powell -

In Belgian writer Bob Van Laerhoven’s ominous, squirm-inducing Baudelaire’s Revenge, a police procedural set in a besieged Paris in 1870, two detectives investigate a series of crimes as creative and twisted as the novel’s macabre plot(…). The sections featuring one unusual woman’s viewpoint exert a bizarre fascination(…) With his tribute to the poet and his work, Van Laerhoven has mirrored Baudelaire’s darker themes in assembling an intensely felt novel out of images of physical and moral decay.  (Sarah Johnson – Reading the Past -

"Baudelaire's Revenge" is the kind of historical mystery that you read on a dark and stormy night where you're looking for something engrossing that might make you a little scared (it's good to get a little scared from our reading now and then, right?). (….)This book would be perfect for those looking for a good dark mood read with a healthy dose of intrigue.(….) Historical mystery is not always an automatic choice for me but I was really intrigued by the thought of a literary serial killer. Van Laerhoven makes figuring out what actually happened with the case very interesting by only giving a little bit of detail at a time(….) I loved the setting of the book. Paris always makes for a fantastic setting but van Laerhoven's almost gothic/ horror view of Paris makes for an especially exciting setting. In the 1870s, France is on the brink of war and the city is chaotic and alive with an electric beat that you can really feel through the author's writing. This is a very exciting tale! (A Bookish Affair -

A complex literary crime novel, based in 19th century France and revolving around the life, death and relationships of controversial poet Charles Baudelaire.This is a clever story with an unusual plot and a cast of complex and well-developed characters. It keeps you guessing right up to the last page and in truth it still had me scratching my head long after I’d read the last page. A simple and easy read it is not. this is actually a smart and extremely dark crime novel. You get to visit the underbelly of society and meet some gloriously twisted characters. This is not a simple whodunit (….). If you like dark historical crime novels with a literary twist then you will love this book - I am sure that many reviewers will rave over it. And I do find that my mind keeps wandering back to the story...…(

Bob Van Laerhoven uses (….) a background of moral controversy created by Baudelaire about his work and lifestyle, as well as the historical background of the reign of emperor Napoleon III and the  Franco Prussian War (which lasted from 1870 till 1872) to introduce the reader to the discovery of some gruesome murders in Paris(…)Van Laerhoven uses a number of points of views to move the story forward and his writing is very clear – I picked up most of the historical background through reading and progressing through the book. At times the events and circumstances seem bizarre and grotesque until you realize what is happening in Paris and in France at the time as well as what happened previously. This is Paris in the thrall of a counter-revolution and as the murders occur, the Franco Prussian war unravels and we now know that the Paris Commune seized power until being bloodily suppressed by the French army.The book is not for the fainthearted, the murders are gruesome, the morals questionable, but despite some of the graphic descriptions the story has a real bite and is very well written and developed; this is an excellent translation and it is well worth reading if you are fond of thrillers with a genuine twist. The book was winner of the Hercule Poirot Prize for Best Crime Novel. (Corri -

(Baudelaire’s Revenge)… is certainly not for the faint of heart, but that is not because of the violence or sex, per se, but rather because it so provocatively examines the connections between violence and sex, life and death, love and hateful revenge. Beautifully written and deftly translated, Baudelaire’s Revenge mixes the mystery of the crime novel with the sophistication of a philosophical treatise(...)(Historical Novel Society :

Baudelaire’s Revenge is packed full of delicious detail and is a multilayered historical crime drama that will weave you through the streets of Paris on the tails of a dangerous and twisted criminal(…)In reading Bob Van Laerhoven’s Baudelaire’s Revenge you feel as though you are caught up in a whirlwind. The energy of the monumental historical events such as the Franco-Prussian War and this potential rebellion, combined with the sinister murders of critics or punishers of the poet Baudelaire, charge this book  with excitement and intrigue.  It was an enjoyable read with a hint of science, of passion and acts that will make your cheeks blush, and the thrill of danger (…)This is a book you can lose yourself in and get wrapped up in the fast moving and ever winding story.  Bob Van Laerhoven had put together an interesting and refreshing novel (…)  I’d say that Baudelaire’s Revenge lives on my shelves somewhere between my collection of Sherlock Holmes tales and my copy of The Phantom of the Opera. (The Black Dog Speaks -

The mystery of the novel was strong and well put together.  It was historically accurate creating an ensemble of murder; political turmoil; and sexual perversion.(Fiction Zeal -

Complex, engrossing, story layering.(…)Tense and grim is the Paris that Commissioner Paul Lefèvre inhabits as the Franco-Prussian war carries on in 1870. The atmosphere is a distinct match for his persona as he awaits his return to the grave (…)Bob Van Laerhoven deftly crafted (his) storyline. There are times that you will flinch as the poverty and practices of this city under siege are quite grim. Overall, we should be very happy that Baudelaire’s Revenge was translated into English this year. Baudelaire’s Revenge: coarse salt across your senses… (June Lorraine – Murder In Common -

This isn’t your standard run of the mill mysteries. (…) It is dark  and complex (…) and creepy,  and though only 268 pages long it isn’t a quick read. I had to pay close attention to what was going on, but it  was definitely worth it. Paris 1870 is a time period I am not familiar with, nor did the name Baudelaire mean anything to me. So I was educated and entertained at the same time. It had an ending I didn’t see coming and I was hooked right till the very end. The cover definitely fits this book perfectly. I love it. (Just One More Chapter -

How should I rate something that's well written but at the same time caused me nausea with how dark it is, and the fact that it contains incest (….) I’m not a stranger to reading dark stories: (…) I've also read “Inamorata” which also contains incest, and I've also read “Quick”. Yet there is a difference between reading those novels and reading this one: Reading this one is like listening to Marilyn Manson's songs, and reading the previous books is like listening to Linkin’ Park. Yes, twilight to the blackest of nights. (And there is a difference, trust me.)(….) I feel that the most powerful and memorable character of the book is Poupeye. When I read his diary entries, they branded themselves into my mind ….(Svetlana’s Reads and Views:

It's nearly impossible for me to explain the plot!  It's a murder mystery, but it's darker and full of twists and turns.  Some you will see coming and some will hit you right out of the blue.  I did like the setting and I know that historically it's accurate to the time.  Obviously the Baudelaire story line is fiction, but very entertaining nonetheless.  I will warn you that this story is very dark.  The murders are quite gruesome in nature and there are some pretty explicit descriptions of the sexual practices of the time and place in which it’s set.  Overall I did end up enjoying it and if you like a dark, gritty read you may enjoy it as well. (Shellys Book Shelves: 

It has to be said. WOW. Okay, that is not my entire review but I wish that it could be. I’m always fascinated by authors who can weave together a mystery and leave a few hints but keep you guessing until the last few pages. I’ve always wondered, “How do you do that?” I was certainly left wondering how Mr. Van Laerhoven could do that. He did it so well that I’m afraid to mention anything because I think even the slightest mention of the plot might give it away. My experience was that I had to take my time reading this relatively short tome as  there was a lot to take in. This is not some simple mystery novel. This is a novel that is steeped in history and mystery. Not to mention, well developed characters whom Mr. Van Laerhoven has taken the time to truly introduce you. It’s rather brilliant how he introduces them but they’re mostly dark and rather unlikable. I couldn’t find myself getting attached to them, yet I was rooting for them to solve the crimes. Where the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen paint a romanticized version of the 19th century, Mr. Van Laerhoven paints it as it was. (Clarissa – With her nose stuck in a book -

This was an interesting book. It was very atmospheric, and the author–particularly early on when introducing characters–had a very lyrical way with the descriptions. Little things that painted a vivid image without overdoing it, and I liked that a lot. The setting was also painted this way, the backdrop of Paris during the Franco-Prussian war and events of Paris that followed. Since this is not a historical time/place that’s my area of expertise, I can make no claims on its accuracy but it painted quite a picture. The same with Baudelaire. Another area not my expertise, but a well painted picture.The primary characters are remarkably flawed, but intriguing. Through them and salient points of their history, the story is carried along at a wonderful pace. It steadily builds in mystery and tension, and some humor, and carried me with its intrigue. I will note that this is definitely an adult book, as many themes, conditions and acts related to violence or sex (mostly sex) were discussed or written out. The author had an almost clinical way with those scenes, however, that I think added well to the atmosphere. It was intriguing (....) the author wove a good tale, and had an engaging way with words. (BoomBaby Reviews

Baudelaire's Revenge makes for an exquisite and addictive read. The setting is fabulous, the lead character anything but dull and boring (he's a real firecracker despite his age!), and the brutality of Franco-Prussian War makes for an interesting backdrop to a blood chilling murder investigation involving a serial killer leaving lines from Charles Baudelaire's anthology Les Fleurs du Mal next to his victims' bodies(....)Baudelaire's Revenge explores some of the darkest corners of human soul and psyche, and it does it in an utmost flamboyant fashion. It is an astoundingly substantial and complex novel for its 256 pages, and it really shines a new light on certain (often shocking and yet mesmerizing) events and aspects of life in the 19th century France. Abundant in social metaphors and cleverly narrated, it's a novel fun to read but also one that leaves you craving more, wanting to learn more about the time period and the people. Especially Charles Baudelaire himself, whom I always thought to be completely fascinating(...)Van Laerhoven paints a vivid and disturbing picture of the society in 19th century France(...)his is not a light and easy to read crime novel. It's heavy and suffocating, but it's also curious and illuminating. Thought provoking. I loved the period appropriate language, the gruesomely detailed descriptions and, most of all, the beautifully rendered world, bursting with flavor and intensity. I really hope there is more where this came from, I need this to be a series of books, I can't stand to part with this bold, deeply sensual, deliciously gothic world. I need more. (Bookish -

The author manages to create an oppressive and gothic atmosphere that reeks of lust, drugs, poverty, decadence, corruption, misery and illness(....)There are no heroes coming to the rescue and even the characters we feel we should root for are deeply flawed. On the other hand, despite the subject matter that reflects Baudelaire’s choice of themes for his poems, and as happens with the poet’s own writings, the language is lyrical and beautiful in the extreme, and not only in the fragments of poems shared(....)Being a psychiatrist and enjoying complex characters, a particular individual in the novel is one of the most disturbing and disturbed fictional creations I’ve read about(...) I’ve seen comments that mention Poe’s writing, and there is a similar sense of oppression, atmosphere and claustrophobia, with the gothic setting of the background, although here Eros and Thanatos have a pretty similar weight in driving the narrative, perhaps more evidently so than in Poe’s stories(...) If you’re looking for a complex and challenging historical novel and don’t shrink from dark subjects, this is a pretty unique book.(Olga's bookreviews )

“Baudelaire's Revenge is a real page-turner. Once you start, you are caught in the stream of a story that is fascinating and exciting. The language is beautiful, flowing. A must-read!” (Goodreads Belgium, 5 stars)

“Vigorous. A finely-tuned balancing act between style and content. Add to all this the extremely convincingly painted tragic characters and the multitude of mysterious figures, and what you get is a winner who gives added luster to this jubilee edition of the Hercule Poirot Prize.” (The jury of the Hercule Poirot Prize) 


Social issues, war, writing, and traveling: Interview with International Award winning author Bob Van Laerhoven

Dark and gruesome scenes, researching the period of an historical crime novel. Interview with author Bob Van Laerhoven

Baudelaire and myself in the mirror. Interview with Flemish author Bob Van Laerhoven

Sex in classical literature and in “Baudelaire’s Revenge,” a glum view on humanity, depression, the difference between “generic mysteries” and “cross-over literary mysteries,” publishers that demand happy endings to novels: Anna Faktorovich in an engaging interview with Flemish  Prize-winning author Bob Van Laerhoven.

Sometimes an author shares more than standard answers: interview in "The Big Thrill" - ITW

Guest Post on Historical Fiction Connection

Falling in Love with Baudelaire

Guest Post on Tony Riches' blog The Writing Desk

You don't seduce inspiration, inspiration seduces you

Society Nineteen talks with  Bob Van Laerhoven 

Interview on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

Live interview on KFAI Radio  show  Write On

Interview on Questia

Interview Bob Van Laerhoven: A writer's philosophy  on  Quick Reviews





“Baudelaire’s Revenge”: The Sexual Urges of the Doomed Poet (  (scroll down to 07/08/2014

Conversations with Archimeda 1: Reading The Heart:

Conversations with Archimeda 2: I'll Try To Be A Good Half-a-father For You

Guest Blog on EQMM's  blogpage: Something Is Going To Happen:

Guest Blog in Marta Merajver's blog Marta's Corner: Meet My Main Character In A WIP



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