Tag Archives: Michel Bussi

Mini Reviews of Recent Reads – Part II

As promised, here is part II of my mini reviews of my holiday reads.

Don’t Let Go by Michel Bussi

don't let go

In an idyllic resort on the island of La Réunion, Liane Bellion and her husband Martial are enjoying the perfect moment with their 6-year-old daughter. Turquoise skies, blue sea, palm trees, a warm breeze.

Then Liane disappears. She went up to her hotel room between 3 and 4pm and never came back. Her husband, worried, had gone to the room along with the concierge – the room was empty but there was blood everywhere. Despite his protestations of innocence, the police view Martial as their prime suspect. He was the only other person who went to the hotel room between 3 and 4pm according to the staff of the hotel.

Then he disappears along with his daughter. With Martial as prime suspect, helicopters scan the island, racial tensions surface, and more corpses are found. Is he really his wife’s killer? And if he isn’t, why does he appear to be so guilty?

I had really high hopes for this novel, having loved After the Crash and Black Water Lilies, and whilst I enjoyed it, I have to admit that it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad, and I liked it, but I had had a couple of issues with the novel.

The good points.  The plot has all the twists and turns that I’ve come to expect from Bussi, and if I guessed elements of where it was going, I didn’t see the whole picture until the big reveal.  I’ve not been to La Réunion, so I don’t know how accurate a portrayal it is, but it does sound lovely.  And, Captain Aja Purvi was a great character.

But.  Throughout the novel, many of the women are treated as little more than objects to be groped and ogled at, and whilst the inclusion of the odd incident isn’t necessarily an issue (it does happen, after all), to have to read about it repeatedly does get a little tiresome.  In addition, the plot requires the suspension of disbelief, as it’s rather implausible at times.  I also had some issues with the relationship between Martial and his daughter, Sopha, which seemed a little off.

Not for me, this one, although I’d be willing to read additional novels by Bussi, on the strength of the first two.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley

the loney

“If it had another name, I never knew, but the locals called it the Loney – that strange nowhere between the Wyre and the Lune where Hanny and I went every Easter time with Mummer, Farther, Mr and Mrs Belderboss and Father Wilfred, the parish priest.

It was impossible to truly know the place. It changed with each influx and retreat, and the neap tides would reveal the skeletons of those who thought they could escape its insidious currents. No one ever went near the water. No one apart from us, that is.

I suppose I always knew that what happened there wouldn’t stay hidden for ever, no matter how much I wanted it to. No matter how hard I tried to forget….”

The Loney is book that has had quite mixed reviews.  Having read it, I can see why it doesn’t appeal to everyone, although I absolutely loved it.

The narrator, who we know only be his surname, Smith, or by his nickname, Tonto, tells the story of what happened at the Loney whilst he was a child on the last of the many Easter vacations he spent there with his family, the local vicar, and other members of their congregation.  This book does contain a lot of detail of Catholic rites, although it’s done in such a way that even an atheist like myself didn’t feel overwhelmed by this.

This isn’t a fast-paced novel with something happening on every page.  But, if there’s nothing overtly happening, I always had the feeling that something was about to happen, and I thought that Hurley’s writing effortlessly maintained the sense of unease with which he imbued the novel from early on.  Obviously, it wouldn’t be much a novel if nothing happened at all, but it does take a while, and I did suspect where it was going from the hints earlier on.  That said, I still found the ending to be quite shocking, even though I was expecting it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and whilst I can see that it may not be to everyone’s taste, I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a gothic tale.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The Method by Shannon Kirk

the method

Imagine a helpless, pregnant 16-year-old who’s just been yanked from the serenity of her home and shoved into a dirty van. Kidnapped. Alone. Terrified.

Now forget her …

Picture instead a pregnant, 16-year-old, manipulative prodigy. She is shoved into a dirty van and, from the first moment of her kidnapping, feels a calm desire for two things: to save her unborn son and to exact merciless revenge.

She is methodical, calculating, scientific in her plotting. A clinical sociopath? Leaving nothing to chance, secure in her timing and practice, she waits for the perfect moment to strike. The Method is what happens when the victim is just as cold as the captors.

The agents trying to find a kidnapped girl have their own frustrations and desires wrapped into this chilling drama. In the twists of intersecting stories, one is left to ponder. Who is the victim? Who is the aggressor?

I’m not sure that a book about a kidnapped, heavily pregnant teenager should be fun, but that is the word that springs to mind to describe this one.  Told from the perspective of a unique protagonist, we see how this exceptionally intelligent and gifted young woman is able to scientifically assess her situation and the “assets” that she has available to her, and to form a plan to escape her captivity.

Despite her meticulous planning, there are plenty of knuckle-biting moments when you’re not sure whether she will be ok, and I found this to be an incredibly quick read as I was desperate to know whether her planned worked and she was able to escape, what the federal agents working the case found, and whether she was also able to take her revenge on those that abducted her.

A brilliant twist on the kidnap thriller.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐


Holiday Reads – Spain 2016

I’ve spent the last week or so enjoying the sun and sangria in Spain.  This much needed break allowed me to catch up on some reading and to make a little dint into my TBR pile.  Here are the books I read:

after-the-crashAfter the Crash by Michel Bussi

I read Bussi’s Black Water Lilies earlier this year and really enjoyed it.  Shortly before I went away, I noticed that the first of his novels to be translated into English – After the Crash – was on one of Amazon’s many Kindle deals, and couldn’t resist.  And I’m so glad that I didn’t!

After the Crash presents the sole survivor of a plane crash of the French / Swiss border – a three-month old girl.  Two families step forward to claim the child as their own, and the novel focusses on the investigation by a private investigator to determine her identity – an investigation which takes 18 years.

There are multiple twists, and the investigation continually throws up various pieces of evidence to say which family she belongs to, before throwing some counter argument in the way, returning the reader (and the private investigator who has been hired to solve the mystery of the girl’s identity) back to square one.  If, like me at the outset of the novel, you’re wondering why they didn’t just obtain a DNA test, this is incorporated into the novel, and is deftly handled, as is the whole investigation.

the-lie-treeThe Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

I’ve been meaning to read The Lie Tree for some time now, as I had heard great things about it and thought it was an interesting premise.

The Lie Tree is set in Victorian times, and fourteen-year-old protagonist Faith and her family have moved to the fictional island of Vane due to a scandal at home.  Faith isn’t a typical Victorian young lady, and when her father dies in mysterious circumstances, she begins her own investigation, and stumbles across a strange tree that is in her father’s possession – a tree that thrives on darkness and lies, producing fruit when the lie becomes established as fact.  When eaten, the fruit reveals a truth to the person consuming it.

Whilst ostensibly a murder mystery and a coming of age tale, there is much more to The Lie Tree as it examines the roles of men and women in society at the time as well as the impact of Darwinism on Christianity.  Told in the gothic tradition, I found The Lie Tree to be thoroughly enjoyable, and a story that would be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

the-vagrantThe Vagrant by Peter Newman

The Vagrant walks through a land ravaged by war and corruption.  A man with no name, he journeys across a dangerous landscape in order to bring a weapon to the Shining City – last bastion of the human race.  A weapon which may be humanity’s last hope in the ongoing battle.  His journey is a perilous one, and full of people who seek to double-cross him at every turn.

The Vagrant is a wonderfully original fantasy novel with a strong cast of characters – both good and bad.  The Vagrant’s journey is partly hindered by the presence of a baby girl – the identity of whom becomes clearer as the novel progresses – who seems so out of place in the war-torn land.  She is quite possibly the most delightful child in fiction, and never failed to bring a smile to my face. Her presence allows us to see a softer side of the Vagrant, as well as providing additional peril (as he seeks to protect her) and a little comic relief.

A strong debut, and I can’t wait to read the second instalment, The Malice, which was published in May.

armadaArmada by Ernest Cline

Zack Lightman loves science fiction in all its forms – games, novels, films – he laps it all up.  Due to graduate in two months, he daydreams about a more exciting life where something – anything – interesting might happen.

Staring out of window in class one day, he sees an alien spacecraft.  And not just any alien spacecraft.  This alien ship looks remarkably like the ones from his current favourite game, Armada – an online flight simulator in which players protect Earth from an alien invasion.  Initially afraid that he’s lost his mind, he soon comes to realise that it’s real, and that he, and millions of other gamers from around the world, are now required to defend the Earth against alien invaders.

I absolutely loved Cline’s first novel, Ready Player One, and so I was really looking forward to Armada.  I have to say, I was a little disappointed.  Whilst the premise is interesting, there are large sections of info dumps that made the novel difficult to get into.  There are multiple hints throughout that things aren’t quite what they seem which remove any possibility of a successful plot twist and I found the characters to be wooden and under-developed.

american-godsAmerican Gods by Neil Gaiman

Shadow has spent three years in prison, and can’t wait to get back to his wife, Laura.  A few days before his release however, he’s told that his wife and best friend have been killed in a car accident.

His life in pieces, he leaves prison with no plans for the future, so when he runs into the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, he accepts a job as a driver and occasional bodyguard, but soon finds himself caught in the middle of a war he doesn’t fully understand – a war between Gods whose followers brought them to America as they migrated, then abandoned them, and now Shadow has to do what he can to survive.

American Gods is another book that I’ve been meaning to read for ages, but for whatever reason never quite got around to until now.  I’m glad I did though – American Gods is an epic novel which spans multiple genres, and draws heavily from mythology, particularly Norse.  As readers of my blog will know, I’m quite taken with anything that relates to old myths.

American Gods is populated with fascinating and intriguing characters, and big, taciturn Shadow complements the somewhat whimsical gods nicely.  Some characters are more easily recognisable than others, in terms of the gods they represent, and I enjoyed the way that multiple mythologies are interwoven successfully.

I can’t wait to see this brought to life in the TV series that is planned for next year.

Black Water Lilies by Michel Bussi


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.