There is a wall! In nearly all fiction novels there is a distinct wall between the story and the writer – the latter remains well hidden and remote from the book. However, in The Enigma of Room 622, the first book I read in 2023, the author smashes through this concept and becomes one of the main protagonists. With daring and excellent writing Joël Dicker breaks down the infamous fourth wall within acting (and by extension in writing) and directly addresses the reader while at the same time becoming one of the key characters.
I started reading this beautiful book gifted to me for Christmas without scanning the inner dust jacket information, without perusing its back cover. Sometimes I just want to be surprised and wow, this book achieved that in abundance!
After a couple of pages, I found myself doing a double-take! Was the writer’s name really the same as the initial character? Were they both the same writers? The answer was an unequivocal yes!
A careful reading of the blurb showed I was right and I was thrilled! Could Joël Dicker carry this off and retain it throughout the whole book as he investigated the mystery and interviewed people along the way? Could he slowly unravel the story in the first person perspective while at the same time creating a full-fledged novel of 563 pages in the third person? Absolutely!
The Enigma of Room 622 is a multi-layered novel that begins with a very simple set-up.
A famous writer, recently broken up with his girlfriend, leaves for a break at Hotel de Verbier in Switzerland. He finds himself in room 621a. The scene is set—what happened to room 622? A mysterious unsolved murder it turns out and his recent friend and aspiring writer Scarlett urges him to investigate the story. She believes this can help him recover from his girlfriend woes, and the writer’s sorrow following the death of his mentor/publisher. In the process, she hopes this will help Joel create his next global blockbuster.
Quickly the novel develops into a partial thriller involving a Swiss international bank, as well as espionage, plus a murder mystery and also tilts towards romance in the form of the trickiest and pivotal of love triangles.
The plot line reminds me of an intricate Venn diagram with various engaging storylines on the periphery which intersect throughout the book. Furthermore, the author interweaves a multitude of characters and plots across thirty-five years with a deft seamless touch that has the reader hooked throughout!
Macaire Ebezner is a president in waiting to the largest private Swiss bank and he is married to the stunning Anastasia, supposedly part of a Russian dynasty. As well as a banker (a role that honestly rather seems to bore him) Macaire enjoys the excitement of working as a spy for the Swiss secret service to aid the county.
Macaire’s presidency is in doubt however when he learns that the board plan to vote in Lev Levotich instead. The plot thickens and the history of Lev’s lowly actor father is introduced in detail as is Lev’s surprising rise to banking success! The two men are tied together not only through banking but through their love of the same woman.
This is only the bare outlines of an intricate suspenseful novel with a plenitude of extraordinary characters and their lives. There are twists galore until the most astonishing and unexpected ending!
The imagination and skill of Joël Dicker in creating this tour de force novel are extraordinary. It is one I can highly recommend.
About Joël Dicker:
Joël Dicker was born in 1985 in Geneva, Switzerland, where he studied law. He spent childhood summers in New England, particularly in Stonington and Bar Harbor, Maine. The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair won three French literary prizes, including the Grand Prix du Roman from the Académie Française, and was a finalist for the Prix Goncourt. It was later adapted for television starring Patrick Dempsey. The Baltimore Boys, at once a prequel and a sequel, was published in English translation in 2017, followed by The Disappearance of Stephanie Mailer in 2021. The Enigma of Room 622, his first novel to be set in his native Switzerland, has sold more than a million copies in France. Dicker lives in Geneva.