Saturday, February 6, 2016
After the Crash by Michel Bussi
The premise of this mystery is simple: two infant girls were passengers (together with their parents) on a plane that crashed on Mont Terri in the Jura mountains en route from Isanbul to Paris in December, 1980. The only survivor was ONE of the babies. But which one?
The relatives of both families wanted to claim the infant as their own -- one family the rich de Carvilles and the other, the provincial Vitrals. In a heated legal battle, a judge tries in vain to determine if the surviving baby girl is Lyse-Rose de Carville or Emilie Vitral. A verdict is rendered based on supposition since there was no hard evidence. But did the judge get it right?
The de Carvilles are so upset at the decision that they hire ex mercenary, now private detective Credule Grand-Duc, to investigate and bring the child they believe is their granddaughter back to them. For 18 years, Grand-Duc searches for proof of the identity of the surviving child. He leaves no stone unturned while working for the de Carvilles.
Now the child, known as Lylie Vitral, has reached 18 still not knowing her true identity, but has grown up with her brother, Marc, and her grandparents in conditions far from the luxurious life she could have had as a de Carville. She and Marc are students at Paris VIII and their relationship has deepened into something beyond that of brother and sister. The mystery of her true identity must be solved. Though their circumstances have changed, neither the de Carvilles or the Vitrals want to let go of Lylie.
When Lylie disappears after giving Marc the notebook that contains a summary of Grand-Duc's years of investigation, he traipses all over France trying to figure out the truth. At first totally bewildered and then almost fanatic in the hunt, he follows the trail in the notebook to a totally startling conclusion.
Told in alternating narratives from the viewpoints of all the different characters and the text of the detective's notebook, each chapter ends on a note that makes the book very hard to put down. The reader tries to piece together the known facts while being tantalized by envelopes containing DNA evidence (finally!) and other red herrings. Although Marc seems to be the main character, the story is less about him than about the case itself and the events that transpired in everyone's desperate search for the truth.
I found this mystery quite compelling and enjoyed it very much. It wasn't until almost the very end that I had an inkling of how this all might end. I relished the descriptions of all things French and the satisfying conclusion.
Thank you to NetGalley and Hatchette books for the ARC to review.