Black Water Lilies, Michel Bussi

It is a rare day today as I have been rendered speechless by a book.

Michel Bussi, you are genius.

Excuse my fangirling… but you will understand if you read the book. Black Water Lilies is the second of Michel Bussi’s works to be translated into English and it is simply a crime thriller masterpiece.

The book follows the murder investigation of Jérôme Morval, whose body is found in a stream. This affair is unusual in the small village of Giverny, where tourists flock from all over to glimpse the former home and setting of former impressionist artist Claude Monet. Recovered from the body of Morval is a postcard featuring Monet’s famous Water Lilies with the small message: ‘Eleven Years Old. Happy Birthday.” The once idyllic village is now uneasy, with suspicions high in the air, yet the key to solving the murder lies with three women, all connected through one secret…

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After the critical acclaim of his first English translation, After The Crash, I had my doubts whether Bussi would be able to re-create such a gripping narrative. Even though Black Water Lilies is notably different in terms of style and content, I was not disappointed; it is in fact this difference which showcases Bussi’s talent as an unique author. Bussi is ahead of the game within his genre, displayed by his truly remarkable flair at crafting such intricate plots alongside his skill as master puppeteer of the reader – manoeuvring them to where he wants them to be. I have to admit I believed I was conscious to this manipulation when I started the book, as this is my second Bussi book, but did this experience help me in anyway? Did I outsmart him?

…no. I did not.

I was left trapped exactly where Bussi had intended me to be, which sparks this bizarre sense of playing a game of chess with the author. Bussi plays his move in terms of plot/character development, next it is our move as the reader where we try to ambitiously outsmart Bussi, (I know, how silly of us!) and when you think you have got it, Bussi snatches it away from you in a flicker of a sentence, and this is what keeps the pages turning.

Bussi’s craftsmanship is faultless, his plots are sophistically clever, and his characters intriguingly complex, making this a riveting read. I cannot stress enough the pure delight you feel once the penny has dropped and everything falls into place, which is when Bussi takes centre stage as an author to be remembered. Bussi comfortably sits with the heavy weights of crime fiction such as Stieg Larsson and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for his attention to detail regarding his eccentric plots, with Bussi’s lack of action substituted for his devotion to storytelling giving Bussi’s works a distinctiveness about them.

Black Water Lilies is available in hardback at all major bookshops alongside After The Crash – my fingers are crossed that we shall be seeing our bookshelves fill up with more and more of Bussi’s works.

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