Heart Fever

Bob van Laerhoven


Bob Van Laerhoven is a veritable Pied Piper, probably in the pay of the devil. His writing mesmerises.  He takes us by the hand, dances around us, amuses us even – such sharp, clever, dialogue, such captivating sentences.  Yet all the while, he is leading us away from safety, towards some destination that we did not have to visit, step by step, twisting us round, till our heads spin and we don’t know the way back. 

And suddenly there we are, struggling for breath, drowning, like one of his characters, in a dark cold river after incalculable treachery.

These stories have a dizzying, disorienting quality.  They are set in real cities, against a backdrop of real events – real wars, real atrocities, a probably-real ashram even – and the people feel real as well, too real for comfort.  To that extent. these stories have solidity, a grip at the end of their handshake (yes, it might break your arm…) Yet they are surreal too: psychotic glimpes through a dark kaleidoscope, drug-addled sometimes, always at racing speed. Heart Fever. It’s not a reference to love, clearly, but something more literal – the delirious, feverish  quality of a heart in the throes of disease.  

So why, Mr Van Laerhoven, why? Did I ask to know what kind of soldier kills a baby?  Did I volunteer to enter your nightmare, to roll in your mire of guilt, lust, revenge, drugs, violence, betrayal? Did you think I wanted to know about your sordid ashram, the miserable sexual troubles of your antihero, his inadequacy both as lover and as friend?

Harf harf harf! (That’s Flemish laughter, out of respect for the author).  Of course I did.  I’ve met this piper before; I know his tunes. I tell you: don’t worry, I can handle them, I can keep myself safe.  So play, Pied Piper, play: no one makes music quite like yours. I’m listening, I’m following, I’m enjoying the headlong dance.  What better company than all these other rats?  What better town than Hamelin?  What’s that?  A river….?

Review by De Gevallene

Heart Fever – Bob Van Laerhoven


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About the Author

A fulltime Belgian/Flemish author, Bob Van Laerhoven has published more than 40 books in Holland and Belgium. His literary work has been published in French, English, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Chinese… Heart Fever, discussed above, having already been translated into German, Spanish and Italian, has recently been translated into Brazilian Portuguese. Three times finalist of the Hercule Poirot Prize for best mystery novel of the year with the novels Djinn, The Finger of God, and Return to Hiroshima. Winner of the Hercule Poirot Prize for Baudelaire’s Revenge, which also won the USA Best Book Award 2014 in the category “mystery/suspense.” 

One thought on “Heart Fever

  1. Thank you. This is a very well-written review that makes my style blush. Writing about horrible things in a style that is, let’s say, elegant – although the translation is not always top-notch – is a work of patience and perseverance. I wanted to give up so many times, but the tales kept prodding me on. So, thanks again and, you know what, with your stylish flair, you should be a writer …


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