After the Crash – Michel Bussi

After the Crash is the first novel by Michel Bussi to have been translated into English, following it’s initial success over in France. Since then, the book has enjoyed best-seller status and a stream of rave reviews. And why not?

After all, the narrative promises to be thrilling. The aftermath of a tragic plane crash on the France-Switzerland border remains unresolved – with two families claiming that the sole survivor, a 3 month old baby, belongs to them, a private detective is hired to discover the truth and finally lay the mystery of Mont Terri to bed. If only things were that simple – 18 years have passed with little progress, but just as Grand-Duc is about to take his own life, “he uncovers a secret that changes everything – then is killed before he can breathe a word of it to anyone…”.

So did the novel live up to the hype? Not really.

Firstly After the Crash is worth reading if you enjoy mystery/detective/thriller novels – just don’t expect to be blown away, or left in any real suspense. Why? Because throughout, the novel felt as though it was missing subtlety and development, certain details were over emphasised whilst others were quickly brushed aside. This is particularly true of Grandma Vitral, who becomes a strange highly sexualised figure, whose appeal and ‘ample breasts’ are referenced more times than I care to mention. The lack of character development also extends to many, if not all, of the main players – the way in which Marc, Emilie and Malvina interacted with one another seemed unconvincing, or off kilter with what the reader had previously been presented with. On top of this, the writing wasn’t short of a few clunky passages, or what I presume were difficult translations – for example whilst swimming, Bussi confirms the readers suspicions in an almost excruciating manner, “Lylie’s face touched the soaked cloth of Marc’s shorts. By accident, almost, her mouth touched his penis. He went hard. How could he do otherwise?”. And perhaps the most damning thing of all, about two thirds of the way through the book it seems to dawn on the reader how the book will end, or at least who Lylie doesn’t belong to.

So, after all that you’re probably wondering not why it’s worth reading, but why it’s worth reading until the end. That’s a tricky one – perhaps because ultimately the premise is interesting and full of potential, the plotline, twists and turns unusual (though not always in a good way), and because the last third is where the novel seems to pick up pace making it a quick read. In other words, it might be stretching it to say that the novel will leave you satisfied or queuing up to read more.

Many others have dubbed After the Crash a page-turner – that much is true, just not for the right reasons, but I’ll let you make up your own mind about that.

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