Black Water Lilies by Michel Bussi

black-water-lilies

Rating: ★★★★☆

Giverny, France – tourist hotspot due to the presence of Claude Monet’s home and the gardens from which he drew so much subject matter for his artwork.  But one morning the idyllic peace is broken by the discovery of the murdered Jerome Morval.  Who killed him, and why?  And for whom was the card in his pocket, wishing someone a happy eleventh birthday?

Tangled up in the mystery are three women:

  • An old widow who seems to know more than she should about Giverny and its inhabitants
  • A schoolteacher, who is something of a femme fatale
  • A young girl with her own prodigious talent for painting

Told over the course of thirteen days, we follow the police investigation and the lives of these three women as the mystery behind Morval’s murder is gradually revealed.

I loved how Bussi brought the setting to life throughout the novel.  He states in the notes at the beginning of the novel that the locations are real, and have been portrayed as true to life as is possible.  Similarly, the history around Monet and his life are also true, and I found this added wonderful insight.  Obviously some artistic licence has been taken, but I could imagine myself in Giverny, wandering around after Neptune (a friendly Alsatian who roams the village) or the little old widow going quietly about her day.

Whilst I enjoyed Black Water Lilies, I did find it to be a little frustrating at times.  It’s told in a disjointed fashion and often jumps from one point of view to another and back again in way that I found a little confusing.  Similarly, I became a little frustrated with the investigation into Morval’s murder, which didn’t seem to be heading towards any meaningful conclusion.  If you feel like this, stick with it!  Everything becomes clear, and the ending is astoundingly clever.  Suddenly, it all made sense – and the little hints from throughout came together brilliantly.  Even now, some days after finishing the novel, I’m still admiring the ingenuity of it.

Black Water Lilies is a fantastic whodunit, and a clever and original novel that I expect to be a big hit over the summer.  Recommended for those who are looking for an extra little “je ne sais quoi” from their next crime read.

Black Water Lilies is available now as a hardback and e-book.  Many thanks to Laura Swainbank for providing a copy for review.

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