‘Black Water Lilies’ by Michel Bussi | Book Review


Claude Monet’s celebrated art of water lilies in his home-garden at Giverny has attracted many a visitors to this little French community, but unlike the painting not everything is as bright and lively in this place. This piece of art forms the heart of Michel Bussi’s terrifying new page-turner, where the story reveals itself in a span of 13 days and starts with one murder and finish with another. A man is found dead on the famous garden, and we’re introduced to our detective Serenac who quickly establishes the identity of the corpse as that of a rich doctor Jérôme Morval. Another major twist that has our detectives muddled is the death of a 11-year-old kid years back in 1937, who died in exactly similar circumstances. Was that an accident, as was reported then, or was that murder too? Do these two different murders fifty years apart have anything in common?

Also key to the plot are three female protagonists – a seductive school teacher Stephanie, a 11-year-old art prodigy Fannette and an old widow who’s also the narrator. Common to the three women is a secret, but will the detective discover it in time to stop the murderer?

Bussi’s After The Crash was a clever crime novel, and Black Water Lilies is an equally engaging tale. As far as crime thrillers are concerned, one can easily rank him up with Keigo Higashino and likes as far as the originality and the surprise factor are concerned. The clues are laid bare early on in the widow’s narrative, and when one connected all these pieces during the big climax revelation, it makes for an excellent weekend read.

A stretch of 13 days is explained in detail with multiple perspectives, something that stirred the maximum excitement in me while reading this book. Towards the last 20 pages, when the killer’s identity is established and his intentions revealed, there’s this strong sense of satisfaction that creeps from reading the book. To be honest this is the finest of thrillers I’ve read in a while, and I’m highly skeptical if I’ll read any other crime-thriller this good anytime soon.

I’ve never been to Giverny, but the author’s wordy sketch of the landscape helped me visualize the beautiful, colourful scenery of the village. Character development is done well, and not one character pushes his/her personality beyond realistic limits. I personally loved Serenac’s the most. He’s much more than just a police officer – he’s an art connoisseur, a poetry lover, a charmer, and a man who generally takes serious with a pinch of salt. The chapter where he actually questions the dog Neptune (yes, a real dog) as if it’s a real witness is the kind of humour you don’t often encounter nowadays. His conversations and feeling for the school teacher Stephenie, their brimming romance, all make for good reading. His bonding with Sylvio, his colleague, is very well described too. Other beautifully described character is that of the old lady, who for a major chunk of the book remains a mystery, and the point where her identity is revealed will give any reader major goosebumps. No two characters are similar, and at one point it may seem impossible to figure out anybody’s motives, but give the story some time and the motives all come out in the open.

If you’re looking for an engaging crime-thriller, look no further than ‘Black Water Lilies.’

Overall Rating: 5/5

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