Don’t Let Go – Michel Bussi (translated by Sam Taylor)

I’ve got pretty simple tastes in tv most of the time*. I can take or leave reality shows, talent shows or real-life medical stuff. I’ll watch some sport and soaps (but if I miss them I’m not that bothered) but will almost always enjoy stuff on science, history and gardening. And then there are the programmes I really enjoy and will happily watch over and over again – Big Bang Theory and really cheesy detective shows. Not intellectual police dramas – I’ve watched things like Wallender but I’d rather read the books – but pure escapist cheese. The kind of series where you have one eye on the plot and the other on the lovely countryside – Midsomer Murders (known as ‘Murder Most reassuring’ in our house) or Death in Paradise (or ‘Murder Most Tropical’, inevitably). Bliss. Obviously with books I like a bit more variety (and, in my head, I can have whatever landscape I like) but sometimes these two areas overlap a touch.

9781474601788Michel Bussi’s previous two books (in English translation) have been set in Paris (and the snow-capped Jura mountains) and Giverny but this one ranges further afield to the island of RĂ©union. Still part of France but also very exotic to those used to the mainland – and certainly not immune to the ravages of drugs, revenge and murder. This was certainly less pre-watershed friendly than Death in Paradise and the darker side of life on a tropical paradise (built on slavery and colonialism…) is brought vividly to life. A couple and their young daughter are, it seems, enjoying their stay on RĂ©union until the wife, Liane Bellion, disappears from their hotel room. At first it seems to be a classic ‘locked-room’ mystery but soon evidence seems to point to Liane’s husband Martial – he goes on the run with his young daughter: the actions, it would seem, of a guilty man.

Of course, nothing is quite that simple – Martial has a secret to hide but we gradually come to realise that murder is probably not in his repertoire. It is quite refreshing not to be working through the usual psychological thriller routine of an unreliable narrator – we see the story from the point of view of Martial, Liane and their daughter but also from that of two police officers involved in the case. These varied voices show us the truth about not only Liane’s disappearance and Martial’s past but also about life of the island – the relationships between the varied ethnic groups and the undercurrents of racism, poverty and violence which tourists rarely see.

If you enjoy crime fiction with a side order of exotic scenery, a convoluted plot and interesting characters then give this (and Bussi’s other books) a try. Any urge to drink rum while reading is your own problem…..

Jane

*I’m also, possibly, the last person left who watches about 95% of their tv in real time. If I’m not home to watch it I probably never will – I’ve too many books to read to be doing with catch-up….

Black Water Lilies – Michel Bussi

I was intrigued by the idea of this book – a crime thriller set in Giverny, the home of Monet and his wonderful water-lily paintings. I visited the gardens once and they are beautiful (although we were constantly thwarted in our attempts to get really good photos by both the crowds and the elusive nature of the French sun) and we had a good wander around the village too. This helped make some of the scenes really come alive for me – particularly a funeral scene in local churchyard (and in the rain…) – although I don’t think it would matter if the nearest you’d ever come to a Monet was on a birthday card. This is a cracking good little thriller.

51Ls5znsSrL._AC_UL320_SR210,320_A body is found in the village of Giverny. Stabbed, head crushed with a rock and partly in the river and it is the job of a detective recently transferred from the South to find out who killed him. And why. We see the story from his point of view and from that of three women – Fanette, a ten year old art prodigy, Stephanie, a beautiful teacher with a very jealous husband, and an elderly woman who lives in an old watermill and watches over the whole village while being, in the way of old women, invisible to its inhabitants. I can’t even begin to explain how they are all connected because that would be an enormous spoiler but the connection is there. This is a very clever book, tightly plotted with lots of well-rounded characters and, after the success of his previous novel After The Crash, it looks as if Michel Bussi is going to become a writer to be reckoned with.

Jane