Exclusive Book Review: ‘After the Crash’ by Michel Bussi

A gripping page-turner full of surprises, twists and turns that you won’t see coming.

On the night of 22 December 1980, a plane crashes on the Franco-Swiss border and is enveloped in flames. All but one of the passengers are killed instantly. The miraculous sole survivor is a three-month-old baby girl. Two French families, one rich, the other poor, step forward to claim her. So begins an investigation that will last for almost two decades, and with little to identify the girl as belonging to either family. Is she Lyse-Rose de Carville or Emilie Vitral? Fast-forward eighteen years and private detective Crédule Grand-Duc, having failed to discover the true identity of the girl, plans to take his own life. After giving the girl a detailed account of his investigation, everything is set. But as he sits at his desk about to pull the trigger, he uncovers a secret that changes everything, then is killed before he can tell anyone of this monumental discovery…

The plot of this novel is intensely intriguing and I was constantly asking myself the burning question of who the miracle child was: Lyse-Rose or Emilie? This book is very much like a jigsaw puzzle because you are given titbits of information in each chapter. As you read on, you begin to put the pieces together to create an overall picture, which does not come together until the very end. Michel Bussi does a superb job in keeping the reader engaged and not revealing the truth until the penultimate chapter.  Consequently, you will be addicted to this book until you find out the identity of the miracle child.

The effect of alternating chapters is twofold: firstly, the chapters switch perspectives which gives you great insight into characters on all sides of the case, from the various family members, such as Marc and Nicole Vitral and Mathilde de Carville, to Crédule Grand-Duc himself; secondly, the chapters flick back through the years, from the night of the crash in 1980, through the ‘80s and ‘90s right up to the end of the case in 1998.  The flashbacks to earlier years are strategically written and written very well to give you the chance to build the case yourself and almost put yourself in Grand-Duc’s place. You imagine investigating and thinking what you would to do to try and uncover the truth.

Crédule Grand-Duc was perhaps my favourite character; his meticulous nature meant that he literally left no stone unturned in order to discover all the facts. For him, being paid huge sums of money to investigate was not important; what mattered was being able to reach a satisfactory result and close the case. His painstaking enquiries are undoubtedly transmitted across to the reader through the chapters from his point of view; you really get a sense of how laborious pursuing certain leads is. His chapters were sometimes amusingly frustrating to read because he knows the truth but will not reveal it until the end. No matter how irritated you are by him, persevere and keep reading, it is worth it!

I think my review would be incomplete unless I mentioned the character of Malvina de Carville, a woman who would be Lyse-Rose’s older sister if the baby is part of the de Carville family (that’s right, I’m not going to divulge the truth either). Bussi portrays Malvina in such a way that makes you conflicted in your opinion of her; on the one hand, she is wicked and black-hearted, but on the other hand, you feel sympathetic towards her. She has been grieving for her lost sister for almost 20 years and it has reduced her to a small, sorrowful and bitter woman who has literally never grown up.  You cannot help but be emotionally moved by Malvina’s unfading belief that Lyse-Rose is alive and you can somewhat identify with that if you put yourself in Malvina’s position. You would never want to believe that your sibling is dead unless you had concrete proof.

Overall, After the Crash is a page-turner of a thriller with a gripping plot that will keep you engaged until the very end. Bussi has structured this novel so cleverly through its different perspectives and time frames that you will be just like Crédule Grand-Duc: desperate to learn the truth.

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