The French Girl
by Lexie Elliott
Publication Date: February 20, 2018
Pages : 304
Synopsis from Publisher:
They were six university students from Oxford--friends and sometimes more than friends--spending an idyllic week together in a French farmhouse. It was supposed to be the perfect summer getaway--until they met Severine, the girl next door.
For Kate Channing, Severine was an unwelcome presence, her inscrutable beauty undermining the close-knit group's loyalties amid the already simmering tensions. And after a huge altercation on the last night of the holiday, Kate knew nothing would ever be the same. There are some things you can't forgive, and there are some people you can't forget, like Severine, who was never seen again.
Now, a decade later, the case is reopened when Severine's body is found in the well behind the farmhouse. Questioned along with her friends, Kate stands to lose everything she's worked so hard to achieve as suspicion mounts around her. Desperate to resolve her own shifting memories and fearful she will be forever bound to the woman whose presence still haunts her, Kate finds herself buried under layers of deception with no one to set her free.
2018 has been a great year for debut novels. A.J. Finn and C.J. Tudor are just two of the outstanding debuts of 2018. When I read the synopsis for Lexie Elliott’s debut novel The French Girl I was instantly curious and knew The French Girl was a book I should add to my list of must reads.
10 years ago six friends embarked on vacation to a beautiful farmhouse in France. The arrival of Severine causes tension and raises issues among the six friends. Then as quickly as she arrives Severine disappears. Ten years later the six friends have moved on with their lives and are now back in London. Once again Severine appears but now she is dead. Kate Channing and her friends find themselves drawn back to their time in France and memories they would rather remain buried.
Elliott’s writing is clear and concise but contains hints of menace and suspense which are simmering right beneath the surface. There is a very obvious villain, but then Elliott casts doubts on their role in Severine’s death, and then throws suspension back onto the obvious villain. I enjoyed this “see-saw” effect which lasted until the very end.
While Severine is at the center of the story, very little is known about her. I may be wrong but I can only remember one situation in the story where she actually spoke. The mystery surrounding her death pales in comparison to the mystery surrounding her life and background. The six friends know very little about her and some do not even mention her by name. The people, who may have been the last to see her before she died, know almost nothing about her. I found it ironic that the death of a person they hardly knew or even cared about could change their lives forever.
The main character Kate is accompanied by the ghost of Severine throughout the story. Kate sees Severine everywhere. What’s interesting is Kate’s reactions to Severine’s appearances. She does not seem concerned and over time even finds comfort in Severine’s presence. Elliot uses this aspect to portray Kate as an unreliable narrator. I absolutely loved reading the story with this added element. By all standards, Kate is hard working, smart, and driven. Her visions of Severine clash with the image she portrays to her friends and colleagues. While reading the story I pictured Kate leading this stressful yet normal life, but I am also thinking about the possibility that she is having some sort of break with reality. The central mystery is the death of Severine but finding out if Kate is mentally stable was just as compelling.
The French Girl moves at a slower pace than most of the crime fiction stories I read. It lacks gore and grisly details but the layered suspense and underlying menace will leave readers just as entertained as any fast paced, action packed crime novel.
**Thanks to Berkley Publishing for my free review copy of The French Girl**
Murder and Moore Rating:
4 out of 5 Stars