Book Review: Black Water Lilies, by Michel Bussi

Publisher: W & N

Publication date:  30th June 2016

Black Water Lilies - My Review

Black Water Lilies by Michel Bussi - Kindle CoverObsession and deceit feature heavily in this moody dual-time mystery to create a cleverly plotted literary canvas that is, Black Water Lilies by Michel Bussi.

The scene is artfully set from the page one. Layer upon layer, jealousy, regret and resentment are slowly worked into the picture by a bitter widow, who daubs her narration with the introduction of two other females she knows a disturbing amount about. The story encircles the trio who are at different stages of their life: our lonely old woman, the young and cripplingly talented Fanette, and Stephanie, the temptress teacher of art. Living in Giverny, home of Monet’s famous garden, they’ve heard the whispers of the enigmatic masterpieces that some people would do anything to get their hands on. Between them they know a lot of other things too.

Immediately there’s a sense of a hidden agenda, the burden of which has been painfully carried forward into the here and now. Virtually invisible from her vantage point in her old four story mill, the widow shares her observations of the unfortunate events surrounding a murder that bears the hallmarks of a suspicious death that occurred years earlier and her reflections are tinged with bitter emotion.

She has extensive inside knowledge of the claustrophobic village with its long stay residents; their comings and goings, which relationships grow, wither, or expire. She gives the impression that the villagers are merely figures trapped in a landscape that’s been replicated a thousand times.

The widow allows you to see only what she wants you to see, when she wants you to see it. This way she prepares you for the slow, tantalising reveal of a secret known only to the trio. But what specifically drives her to orchestrate things from a safe distance? A craving for drama? Revenge? Surely she would have more important things to consider than watching and waiting, given her own husband’s recent demise?

Also under surveillance and guiding the investigation into blind alleys is the oddest, most inappropriately behaved police chief, who had me convinced he was Inspector Clouseau’s second cousin. I adored the author’s previous book, After The Crash, so I couldn’t wait to get my grabby hands on Black Water Lilies, yet initially I began to wonder what the chuffing point was. There I was going round in frustrating circles when everything came into focus. I could kick myself for how cunning Black Water Lilies had been – the dots were all there, I just hadn’t been joining them!

I bet you’re none the wiser after reading this, are you? Gosh, I’m sorry. I honestly can’t say any more without massively spoiling the overall effect of this tale, except how its vivid imagery and passionate outbursts of village life are strategically staged to achieve maximum impact.

Rating: 4/5

(Huge thanks to the publishers for kindly permitting a digital download of this book, via NetGalley.)

Black Water Lilies - Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Giverny. During the day, tourists flock to the former home of the famous artist Claude Monet and the gardens where he painted his Water Lilies. But when silence returns, there is a darker side to the peaceful French village.

This is the story of thirteen days that begin with one murder and end with another. Jérôme Morval, a man whose passion for art was matched only by his passion for women, has been found dead in the stream that runs through the gardens. In his pocket is a postcard of Monet’s Water Lilies with the words: Eleven years old. Happy Birthday.

Entangled in the mystery are three women: a young painting prodigy, the seductive village schoolteacher and an old widow who watches over the village from a mill by the stream. All three of them share a secret. But what do they know about the discovery of Jérôme Morval’s corpse? And what is the connection to the mysterious, rumoured painting of Black Water Lilies?

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Black Water Lilies - Author Profile

(Courtesy of publisher’s website)

Michel Bussi is the author of eight bestselling thrillers. In 2013 alone, his books sold half a million copies in his native France. He has won fifteen literary awards, making him one of France’s most prestigious crime authors. When not writing fiction, he is a Professor of Geography at the University of Rouen and a political commentator. Un avion sans elle is his first book to be published in the UK.

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