Lots of things happen in this novel, which is called Nothing… It has more than 500 pages. There are so many characters that it was necessary to list them and briefly describe them at the end of the book. The plot is ambitious, complex: you have to make a little effort not to lose the thread.

This is a very current, anxiety-provoking novel. Humanity is doing little to counter climate change. Because of this, she is slowly but surely heading towards disaster. Young people suffer from such eco-anxiety that they turn to eco-terrorist or nihilistic movements (hence the title of the book).

A few wealthy characters with dubious morals wonder if there is a way to comfortably survive the chaos and even profit from it, financially speaking. They enact a diabolical plan that involves a dark real estate scheme in the Laurentians and a series of spectacular murders across the planet.

This is where Henri Dufaux, chief inspector of the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal, a recurring character of the Quebec author Jean-Jacques Pelletier, comes into play. Henri Dufaux is the kind of hero you often find in Scandinavian thrillers: an older, lonely, gruff, but honest investigator. The author is not tender with him and makes him live many torments. However, Jean-Jacques Pelletier steps out of the mold a bit and introduces a small dose of humor by giving his hero an “inner critic”: a cynical voice which is heard in the inspector’s head and which begins with him cheerfully squeaky dialogues.

Several other characters are also classics of the genre: the high-ranking officer who has retired, but who remains of good advice, the ultra-competent collaborator, or the young autistic girl. We are on familiar ground.

Fortunately, the structure of the novel is very clever. We change narrator from one chapter to another, going from an omniscient narrator to Henri Dufaux himself (and his inner critic). Jean-Jacques Pelletier inserts here and there excerpts from news bulletins or interviews, blogs, conversations on social media. This helps ground the action in contemporary reality, whether it’s the latest gasps of COVID, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, or the latest most depressing facts about the health of the planet.

The social media exchanges aren’t much of a morale-booster either: they’re fictional, but they perfectly (and sadly) reflect the pitiful level that can be found in “real” life.

Those who like to immerse themselves in a well-oiled plot while reflecting on the consequences of environmental immobility will appreciate Jean-Jacques Pelletier’s latest novel.

Those who just want to be entertained and sink into oblivion may need to choose something else for their bedside reading.