Tuesday, January 26, 2016

AFTER THE CRASH :: Michael Bussi

Holy cats. Michael Bussi's After the Crash is one of those books you're certain can't live up to the hype. Well, color me a mistaken pessimist, because I loved every twisty-turny minute of it. I can't recall the last time I was so driven to get back to a book each time I had to put it down. I was fearful all the arcs and loose ends would never come together in a believable package, but Bussi pulled it off quite well. This one is a corker that I highly recommend.

The basic premise, unlike the unfolding storyline, is simple. In December 1980, a plane heading to France from Turkey crashes into a Parisian mountainside, killing all aboard, save one. A three-month-old baby is miraculously thrown from the wreckage and survives in the snowy landscape until rescuers arrive.

The problem? There were two babies on board and circumstances prevent the accurate identification of the surviving girl (it's 1980, pre-DNA testing). Naturally, the families of both sets of parents killed in the crash believe the infant to be their granddaughter and the fight over custody begins in earnest as the miracle baby sparks a media firestorm.

The families couldn't be more different. The de Carvilles are well-to-do, Leonce de Caville one of the best known captains of industry in France. The Vitrals are their polar opposite, a family barely making ends meet and historically dogged by tragedy. While the de Carvilles have the upper hand in the fight for the baby they believe to be their Lyse-Rose, the Vitrals refuse to give up their fight for the baby they believe to be their Emilie. It is, at its most base level, a battle between the haves and the have-nots.

The curtain opens on September 29, 1998, as private detective Credule Grand-Duc sits contemplating the journal he kept over the course of his 18-year investigation into the identity of the baby. Hired by Mathilde de Carville, Grand-Duc was paid a hefty sum with the mandate to prove once and for all, before her 18th birthday, that the girl is a de Carville by blood. Despite an intense, globe-trotting effort with crazy twists and turns, Grand-Duc has failed and is prepared to commit suicide:

He had written a thriller that was missing its final page, a whodunit in which the last five lines had been erased.

Alternating between 1980 and 1998, After the Crash is a slam-bang thrill ride. The reader is taken along on Grand-Duc's investigation as one of the characters reads his journal in 1998 and tries to figure out Emilie/Lyse-Rose's identity in time to avoid one last tragedy. I will say no more!

Full of family intrigue, characters with depth and sharp corners, and a compelling mystery investigation, After the Crash doesn't appear to lose any drama or intensity from being a work of translation. If it does, the original work must be angina-inducing. I loved the pace of the book and the fact that the author pulled some pretty good investigative twists that didn't feel out of place or a bunch of malarkey, even when they ultimately didn't pan out. Everything fit. Simply put, I was really pleased when I read the final words and closed the back cover.

STREET SENSE:  A thriller worthy of the word. A book, at the risk of trotting out the old cliche, I really did not want to put down. Pure fun, I highly recommend it.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE:  It's always the same: if you don't shout, you never get anything. As the Vitrals had never protested against life, life had never bothered to correct the imbalance that afforded them so much misery.

COVER NERD SAYS:   I have seen several covers for this book, and I like the one finally slapped on the American edition. To be honest, I didn't even look that closely at it until I sat down to write this review (case in point, I just noticed the dragonflies). The colors and imagery were sufficient at first glance that, along with the title, I was drawn in by the darkness and hint of plot provided by the art package. Solid work.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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