|Apr/May 2018 Reviews & Interviews|
The French Girl.
Atlantic. 2018. 296 pp.
ISBN 978 1 78649 554 9.
Kate Channing is a young lawyer who has recently set up her own legal head-hunter agency. This, and her freedom, are threatened when the body of a French girl is found in a well on a property where Kate and her university friends had holidayed ten years earlier.
Kate tells this story. She tells of the events which led up to the disappearance of 19-year-old Severine, the French "mademoiselle next door." She tells of the developing investigation by the French police, in particular, of Modan, the French detective who comes to interview her and her friends. And she tells of her growing fear as she becomes the main suspect in a murder investigation. The five friends are all suspects, but because of a lovers' quarrel between Kate and Seb at the end of the holiday, Kate is seen as the most likely killer. Motive? Jealousy.
Kate's friends are a disparate, mostly likable bunch. Her closest friend, Lara, is a sexy Swedish blonde. Tom and Seb are cousins who have always lived close to each other on the estate owned by Seb's wealthy father. Theo, who was with them on that holiday, was killed in Afghanistan. And Caro, the least likable of them all, is the daughter of a man who is presently Kate's most important business client.
Severine disappeared on the last night of their holiday. Evidence of her boarding a bus and CCTV images of her at the bus station suggested she chose to disappear, but alterations on the French property have now discovered her body in a well, and her skull shows she had received a severe blow to the head. The bus station evidence has proved unreliable. There is some dispute about the exact date at which the well in which the body was eventually found was filled in. So, the case is reopened.
The pace at which events and revelations occur make this a gripping book. It is easy to like Kate and to share her feelings, doubts, and emotions. She is an outspoken Yorkshire lass with a sharp mind and (sometimes) a sharp tongue. Clearly she did not murder Severine. Nor did her friend, Lara. But what about the others? All of them have secrets. Kate becomes increasingly distracted by the investigation and by the rumors someone has spread amongst her potential clients, threatening to ruin her business. And Severine, to Kate's initial concern, becomes her ghostly companion. She knows Severine is a figment of her imagination, but she begins to find her sudden, silent appearances quite comforting.
Lexie Eliott creates believable and articulate characters. She writes well and holds the reader in suspense until the final pages. This is a fine debut novel.