“My mind skitters to that week in France, to Seb, to Tom, to Lara, Theo, Caro, Severine, and the spider’s web that entangles and binds us all.”
Ten years ago, six friends, all Oxford University students, went to France for a week of rest and relaxation. Theo’s parents had offered to let them stay at the charming farmhouse which they used as a holiday home. The week will have long lasting repercussions however, as the beautiful girl who lived next door to the farmhouse was never seen again…
They were young, emotions ran high, some paired off into couples, some others wished they were part of that couple, summer weather, alcohol, cocaine. Looking back, memories are not as accurate as they should be. But Severine, the beautiful French girl, had somehow upset the dynamic, and she paid the ultimate price.
Now, we meet our protagonist, Kate Channing. At the tender age of thirty-one, single, a former lawyer, she runs her own business as a legal headhunter. Located in Bloomsbury, with just two employees, Kate is floundering, the fledgling firm not yet the success that Kate wants it to be.
Just when Kate sees some hope on the horizon with a promising new lucrative contract, she is contacted by the French police requesting an interview. Stymied as to what they could want after a decade, Kate approaches the interview with a clear conscience. Apparently Severine’s body has been found – at the bottom of the well of the farmhouse where they stayed. The case has been reopened. All the friends have been called. Except Theo, who was killed in the war.
Caro requests that they all meet up again to welcome Seb and his wife back to England. He had been living in Boston, U.S.A. and now has returned home. Kate has very mixed feelings about this as she hasn’t seen Seb since they broke up directly after that fateful week in France. Once the friends all reunite, they find that their memories shift and some suspicions arise.
“It makes me uneasy, or even more uneasy. I can’t remember when I was last at ease.”
The French detective, Modan, remains in England pursuing his inquiries and romancing Kate’s best friend Lara. The longer he stays, the more tenuous Kate’s position seems. Nothing is as she first thought it was. The friends she thought she knew turn out to all have their own agendas, their own secrets.
Kate is called into New Scotland Yard for a further interview.
“I need a lawyer. Which ought to be funny given I’m a legal headhunter, except that it’s not funny at all. Because I need a lawyer.”
This novel asks the age-old question. Does anyone ever truly KNOW anyone? People that you think you know well can turn out to be duplicitous, jealous, prideful, and class conscious. Everyone has their own self-centered agendas and misunderstanding are rampant.
I really enjoyed “The French girl”. Although it took me a while to warm up to Kate’s character, once I did, my enjoyment grew. The story was well wrought, the writing, in particular the characterization, was well rendered. I personally didn’t like the fact that Kate kept ‘seeing’ Severine’s ghostly presence. I think I know why the author included it though, as it DID make Severine more ‘real’ to the reader, thus making you more empathetic towards the crime victim and more invested in the case’s outcome. “The French girl” is a slow-paced thriller and a solid debut novel. I will be eager to read more by this talented author.
I received a digital copy of this novel from Berkley/Penguin Random House (via Edelweiss) for free – at my request, and I provided this review voluntarily.
The French Girl will be published on February 20, 2018
Lexie Elliott has been writing for as long as she can remember, but she began to focus on it more seriously after she lost her banking job in 2009 due to the Global Financial Crisis. After some success in short story competitions, she began planning a novel. With two kids and a (new) job, it took some time for that novel to move from her head to the page, but the result was The French Girl.
When she’s not writing, Lexie can be found running, swimming or cycling whilst thinking about writing. In 2007 she swam the English Channel solo. She won’t be doing that again. In 2015 she ran 100km, raising money for Alzheimer Scotland. She won’t be doing that again either. But the odd triathlon or marathon isn’t out of the question.