Thursday, 8 September 2016

Black Water Lilies by Michel Bussi

Now this is a different kind of murder mystery. Written by French writer Michel Bussi, I thought it was the book's Frenchness that made it so different. You know that whimsical way the French have of telling stories, full of passion and frivolity and interesting characters.

Black Water Lilies is set around the town of Giverny, made famous by Claude Monet, who set up house there and for thirty years adapted the gardens and water features so he could paint copious views of his famous water lilies. It sounds a charming little town, built around the tourism Monet’s house and gardens bring, and painters from around the world still visit to try their hand at capturing the dappled light and colour of flowers floating on water, set among trees. Until there’s a murder.

Jerome Morval is a wealthy opthamologist when he is bashed on the head, stabbed and left half-drowned in the river. The police, handsome Inspector Serenac and his earnest young sidekick Sylvio Benavides, attempt to find a link between the birthday card to an eleven year old in the victim’s pocket; the amorous pictures sent anonymously showing Morval with five women; and his obsession for the water-lily paintings of Monet.

The police investigation seems to be going nowhere, possibly because Serenac develops a crush on the pretty school-teacher who features in one of the photographs. And what is the secret that the old witch who lives in the mill-house shares with the victim’s wife, but not the reader? Add a little girl, Fanette, who could be the next great artist to come from Giverny, and a missing pair of boots, and there is plenty to keep the reader guessing.

I thought the police would eventually find the culprit, solve the case and move on, but was unprepared for the massive twist that happens near the end of the book. So taken with the quirky characters, the charm of the setting and the art of the great master, I just didn’t see it coming. Black Water Lilies is as deceptive as it is entertaining, a terrific piece of storytelling from a wonderful new author.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: Black Water Lilies

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