Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Book Review: After The Crash by Michel Bussi

Book: After The Crash

Author: Michel Bussi

Pages: 432

Read: The paperback pictured above

Read in: 5 odd days (the book was a drag)

Plot Summary: On the night of 22 December 1980, a plane crashes on the Franco-Swiss border and is engulfed in flames. 168 out of 169 passengers are killed instantly. The miraculous sole survivor is a three-month-old baby girl. Two families, one rich, the other poor, step forward to claim her, sparking an investigation that will last for almost two decades. Is she Lyse-Rose or Emilie?

Eighteen years later, having failed to discover the truth, private detective Credule Grand-Duc plans to take his own life, but not before placing an account of his investigation in the girl's hands. But, as he sits at his desk about to pull the trigger, he uncovers a secret that changes everything - then is killed before he can breathe a word of it to anyone. 

Things I Liked: Quick List:

1. The premise of the book was interesting, if slightly farfetched! The sole survivor of a plane crash was a little baby girl and no one could be sure whose child she was. (Please note, this was in the pre-DNA test era). Also, Michel Bussi is supposed to be one of the top mystery authors in France and there was quite a buzz about this book, which is one of his first works to be translated into English. So, all of that made me pick this book up. 

2. The tenacity of the detective (Grand-Duc) to pursue one thin lead after another to determine the child's paternity is awe inspiring. To have one mystery like this consume your whole life is really quite something and the author does a good job of translating his obsession, frustrations and happiness at the little wins that come his way. 

3. The characters are interesting. Both he families- the rich one and the middle-class one (forgive me, it has been a while since I read the book and, frankly, I don't remember any of the names!) are chockfull of interesting, weird and very determined characters. The families are full of people who will do anything and sacrifice anything to prove that the baby is theirs, often to their own detriment. This whole desperation was also well captured by the author. 

Things I Didn't Like: Many things! Here's the list: 

1. The premise, while interesting, was actually entirely ridiculous! As I read about the crash, I kept thinking- how did a small 2-3 month old baby survive this thing? The plane crashed on a snow-capped mountain and blew up, so, how did this baby survive? Every misgiving I had about this basic premise comes true at a crucial point in the book.

2. The events in the move are spread over an 18-year period, from the early 80s when there was no DNA testing to the late 90s, when there was.. So, at some point in this interim, the baby's DNA was tested and the rich family has known the result. A big deal was made of the matriarch of the rich family not letting anyone know the result of this test. Utterly pointless! 

3. There is too much time spent in the book going over the child's life and those of the families over the years. Too much detail than is required for a mystery book. It is not like there are any breadcrumbs from those events, which are required for the final outcome of the story or like pieces of the jigsaw that all need to be there to complete the full picture. It was a drag to read about random things like Grand-Duc's obsession with the middle-class family's matriarch's huge boobs or whatever. Super irrelevant to the whole story and just weird! 

4. The actual mystery was very predictable and easy enough to guess, which made me all the more mad about labouring through 400 plus pages of boring details. I had pretty much guessed how the baby had survived and it is so glaringly clear! GAH! 

5. There are no real red herrings and some of the ones that make their way in the narrative that are so obviously red herrings! The lack of any real alternative theories makes this an overall dull book to read. The author has tried to make this slightly literary fiction-like and, in my opinion, has failed. 

6. The eventual outcome of the book is so LAME. LAME! What really happened on the night of the crash is SO UNREALISTIC and implausible! Utterly ridiculous! 

Rating: 2.5/5 
Avoid. Just read a review with spoilers on Good Reads, if you are curious about the outcome of this miracle survivor baby and whose child she really was! 

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