Monday 29 March 2010

Complicit: review

My first encounter with the fiction of Nicci French was the superb Killing Me Softly, and I’ve read a number of the other French novels (‘Nicci French’ is, in fact, a husband and wife duo, Sean French and Nicci Gerrard). Their latest novel of psychological suspense, Complicit, has just been published, and I found it an excellent read.

The book is divided into past and present narratives, each told by a young music teacher, Bonnie Graham. The story set in the present recounts the bizarre sequence of events that unfolds once Bonnie finds the dead body of a man to whom she was very close (who is not identified to the reader for quite some time.) The ‘past’ narrative explains the events of a chaotic summer which led up to the man’s murder.

Bonnie is asked by a friend to play at her wedding, and so she forms a band that includes past, future, and would-be lovers. Her choice of fellow musicians is unwise in the extreme, as it turns out, and there were times when Bonnie’s folly irritated me intensely. Some of the events of the story are unlikely in the extreme, but the skill of Nicci French is to ensure that you suspend your disbelief because you do want to find out what has been going on, and how matters will be resolved.

At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy this story, but it soon had me hooked. The split story-line is handled adroitly, and you can never be quite sure what will happen next (although my rule of thumb was that Bonnie would mess up in some way, and she consistently lived up to these expectations!) If you like pacy suspense novels, I am sure you will find Complicit gripping. It's not a short book, but I devoured it ravenously.


Anonymous said...

Martin - Thanks for this. This is one Nicci French I haven't read, but I do like their style. It's good to hear that it's up to their quality standard : ).

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Thanks for the review, Martin...I'll have to find this one.

Interestingly enough, I cam across them on my Google reader the other day--a series they've done for the Telegraph on writing:

Mystery Writing is Murder

Deb said...

I've tried several Nicci French books. They all have great set-ups and interesting situations, but then they get caught up in outlandish plots that require the characters (especially the heroines) to do uncharacteristically dumb things. (I think you hit the nail on the head with your word, "unwise.") In each of the French books I've read, the heroine does something incredibly foolish that enables (of course) the villain to take advantage. French's heroines just aren't consistent. One moment they're wise and perceptive and thoughtful, and the next they're making boneheaded moves that make me want to throw the book across the room.

Janet O'Kane said...

I've enjoyed some French novels in the past, but not read any of the recent ones. What I'm fascinated by is the concept of writing a book with someone else. I saw them speak at Harrogate a few years ago and they made it sound easy, but it would be my idea of hell!
At least they're in the same location. Allegedly the mother and daughter team who write as PJ Tracy live in different states in the USA. (I can't imagine writing with my mother, either)

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for these comments.
Janet, I was there at Harrogate too that time - small world.
Deb - very interesting point indeed about character consistency. I'll keep it in mind next time I read NF.