Year 2 / Book 31: Black Water Lilies

31) Black Water Lilies by Michel Bussi

This book came weighted with a lot of chat on the front cover: “Ends with one of the most reverberating shocks in modern fiction” says the Sunday Times. “A dazzling, unexpected and haunting masterpiece” says the Daily Mail. It’s a bit unfair, really, on both the book and the reader for it to be freighted with all this baggage up front: my expectations were raised, and I was hoping for one of the best thrillers I’d read this year. I didn’t get that: I did get an engaging set of characters, an interesting-ish (if preposterous) plot, and a twist that was mildly surprising.

It is set in Giverny and Monet and painting is the thread that ties the plot and characters together; Bussi is adept at drawing characters, even if some of them sail a little close to caricature, and the pages flip by rapidly. The plot is centred around a beautiful teacher, a reclusive old woman and a talented young girl artist – and several deaths. It is clever without being particularly likeable, which meant that even whilst enjoying the flights of fancy and the whimsy of characters or an aspect of the plot, I was a bit detached throughout. 

This may be the challenge of a novel based so evidently on a single clever idea – in retrospect it all feels constructed for the final payoff, rather than for the journey and engagement on the way there. Perhaps it would have been different without the signposting of the twist on the way in: which was a bit like someone going “watch out for the big reveal” as you walk into the cinema to see the Sixth Sense or The Crying Game. 

For dedicated Monet enthusiasts and thriller twist-lovers only. And only 99p on Kindle at the moment…

Score: 6/10

BUY IT NOW: Black Water Lilies: A stunning, twisty murder mystery

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