THE FRENCH GIRL
By: Lexie Elliott
Published: February 20, 2018
Publisher: Berkley Books
Debut novelist, Lexie Elliott always wanted to be a writer. Thinking back on a summer vacation with her friends to a farmhouse in France, the idea for this novel was formed. Kate Channing, along with her boyfriend Seb, and three other friends spend a week at their friend Theo’s farmhouse in France. It’s the perfect reward for surviving Oxford University. The six of them are the best of friends with Seb and Tom, cousins, Lara and Kate being best friends, Caro a childhood friend of Seb and Tom and Theo. Then the beautiful French girl, Severine, who lives next door, shows up. She changes the dynamics of their friendships and the day the friends are all set to return to London, Severine disappears.
Fast forward ten years later. Kate is living in London starting her own headhunter business. Seb is married…to someone else and is moving back to London. Tom and Lara are still Kate’s best friends and Caro is ending up being a new potential client of Kate’s. But, Severine has come back to haunt them. Her body has just been found at the bottom of the well at Theo’s farmhouse. Theo can’t be questioned because he was killed in Afghanistan. The five are now thrown back into what happened that week at the farmhouse and realizing someone isn’t telling the truth.
I chose this novel because I love stories of friendships and secrets. When Severine’s body is found and the timing points to one of the six likely committing the murder, the questions start to circulate in everyone’s minds. Who isn’t being truthful, what really happened that last night in France, and who is going to ultimately be the murderer? The story starts to unravel as Elliott takes you back to the week in France and into the minds of the five friends that are left to answer the detective’s unending questions.
Elliott immediately starts to put you in the mode of questioning every character’s motive. Why is Caro suddenly back in Kate’s life? Why is Seb moving back with his new wife? Since Theo can’t be questioned, can he be trusted? Elliott throws you into the lives of these thirty-something professionals who thought they could put that week in France behind them and now their lives and careers are hanging in balance as the investigation gets more and more intense and the French are pushing to make an arrest.
The interesting part of the story that really intrigued me was the introduction of Severine’s ghost that only Kate could see. Severine loomed in Kate’s periphery joining her at home, at work, after work at the bar, at dinner with friends, and while she was being questioned. At first, Kate can only see her bones or her skull, but then as the investigation moves forward, Severine becomes a crucial character in the story of her murder. She hovers around Kate, insistent that she isn’t forgotten.
Even though I guessed the murderer and the story has a common second attempt at murder that I see in many novels as the murderer gets desperate, I was still surprised by the conclusion of the investigation. I thought it might leave me feeling angry, but it actually left me feeling like it was a bit more realistic than some other conclusions. Is this a fast-paced thriller with a shocking twist? No. It’s more of a slow mystery that builds as you get to know the characters and their motives for keeping the secrets that have been inside them for ten years. I think Elliott has talent and creativity. Since she used bits of her own idyllic trip to France back in college for this story, I am hoping she has other recollections that she can fall back on for more twisted mysteries.
|Lexie Elliott – source|
Lexie Elliott has been writing for as long as she can remember, but she began to focus on it more seriously after she lost her banking job in 2009 due to the Global Financial Crisis. After some success in short story competitions, she began planning a novel. With two kids and a (new) job, it took some time for that novel to move from her head to the page, but the result was THE FRENCH GIRL.
When she’s not writing, Lexie can be found running, swimming or cycling whilst thinking about writing. In 2007 she swam the English Channel solo. She won’t be doing that again. In 2015 she ran 100km, raising money for Alzheimer Scotland. She won’t be doing that again either. But the odd triathlon or marathon isn’t out of the question. For more, check out her website, HERE.
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