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Jonathan Ball

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Michel Bussi’s latest thriller clever and nuanced, writes Margaret von Klemperer

Published in the Witness

MICHEL Bussi is a celebrated French thriller writer, and, incidentally, a professor of Geography. Maybe that is why he has set his latest novel on the geographically and geologically interesting island of Reunion. The setting plays an important part in the story, and adds an extra layer to the tale.

Reunion is interesting in other ways too: the inhabitants are an extraordinary and complex racial mix, and beneath the popular conception of the place as a tourist paradise, ethnic and social tensions are rife and also bring their own dimension to the plot.

On the surface, Martial and Liane Bellion and their six year old daughter Sopha are the norm of wealthy tourists, lazing on the beach or round the pool and making friends with other holiday couples. But then Liane vanishes, and when Martial reports her missing, blood is found in their room.

Witnesses appear to say that Martial was seen going up to their room when he said he was with Sopha on the beach, and that he “borrowed” a laundry trolley at the same time. And then he suddenly goes on the run, with the child. Why would he do that, having initially co-operated? And is he what he seems on the surface…simply a tourist, out for a good time in a new, exotic location?

We see the story from various perspectives: the police, convinced they are after a wife killer; the child, frightened of and loving her father by turns; locals who see themselves as amateur detectives; Martial himself…and others.

There is plenty for the reader to consider and red herrings abound as we slowly come to unravel the complexities of what the police initially view as a straightforward tale of domestic violence. Unlike so many thrillers which rely on shock, gore and schlock, Don’t Let Go is clever and nuanced. Of course, there is action and violence, some shocking, but there is more than that. The whole mixture adds up to create an excellent thriller. Margaret von Klemperer

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