I wasn’t planning to buy any more books until I’d significantly reduced the pile I already have. However, I couldn’t help noticing this book on a stand in Waterstones and the excerpt from The Sunday Times’ review on the cover tempted me in to buying a copy. I’m certainly pleased I did, as it is one of the best thrillers I’ve read in a very long time.
After The Crash is a thriller / mystery, which weaves the past and the present together to set out the central mysteries of the novel. Without giving too much away, the story centres around a plane crash in December 1980, in which all but one of the passengers were killed. The survivor, a three month old baby girl, was heralded as a miracle child. However, there were two similar-aged babies on board and at the time before DNA testing, a battle began as to which French family she belonged to – was she Lyse-Rose, from the wealthy De Carville family, or Emilie Vitral whose family came from a much poorer background.
We see the events of 1980 and beyond through the journal of private detective Credule Grand Duke, employed by the De Carville’s to find out the truth. However, in 1998, as “Lylie” is turning 18, Grand Duke is about to give up and end his life, when he suddenly has a breakthrough, which could solve the mystery at long last – that is until he is murdered.
The mystery of who killed him and why is only one puzzle, together with the central question of who is Lylie. Michel Bussi’s writing moves at a brilliant pace, drawing you in from the first chapter. I loved the use of the journal to set out the past, as it made it feel present and exciting, as we read and discover these events alongside Marc Vitral, possibly Lylie’s brother, to whom she has given the journal to read. It also helps maintain the story’s momentum – the nearer to the end of the journal Marc is, the closer we are to solving the puzzle.
I can see how the novel is compared (as the Sunday Times does) to Stieg Larsson. It is after all a thriller that is also a puzzle about events of the past, which have consumed the lives of others and which are now about to be solved. However, I think Larsson’s writing still captures a tone and depth of intrigue that was not as strong in Bussi’s novel. After The Crash is however filled with some interesting characters, particularly the emotionally damaged Malvina and Grand Duke, who we get to know through his book. I would agree with other readers that it’s a shame we don’t hear more from Lylie herself. She is around whom everything revolves and yet our connection to her as a character is solely built through the view of others, particularly Marc. Perhaps this was designed to maintain the mystery as to her identity.
I did also think that the book’s conclusion seemed to lack the pace of the novel as a whole. After so much momentum and frantic page-turning, it seemed to come to an all too sudden conclusion. However, this did not detract from my overall opinion of the novel. It is a thrilling and interesting story and contains some well written and fascinating characters. I love a book I can escape in to and After The Crash is certainly such a novel, that had me hooked until the very last page. I certainly hope more of Michel Bussi’s work will be translated and make its way to my local bookshop soon!
For anyone who enjoys an excellent mystery or thriller, this comes very highly recommended.
After The Crash by Michel Bussi is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson and available through all the usual book stockists.