About The Book
WELCOME TO THE SCHOOL REUNION FROM HELL
FRENCH RIVIERA, WINTER 1992
On a freezing night, as her high school campus is engulfed by a snowstorm, 19-year-old Vinca Rockwell runs away with Alexis, her philosophy teacher.
No one will ever see them again.
FRENCH RIVIERA, SPRING 2017
Formerly inseparable, Thomas, Maxime and Fanny – Vinca’s best friends – have not spoken in twenty-five years. But when they receive an invitation to their school’s anniversary reunion, they know they must go back one final time.
Because there is a body buried in that building…
…and they’re the ones who put it there.
I do love a bit of European crime fiction and usually favour the Nordic countries. I have over the past year or so branched out a little and have read enjoyed both Germany’s Simone Buchholz and France’s Leïla Slimani. My latest foray into the genre is The Reunion by Guillaume Musso, translated into English by Frank Wynne, a dual timeline book set in both the present day and the early 1990s.
The premise drew me to the book; a group of friends gathering together for their 25 Year Reunion at their old school. The school is about to have a new wing built and the gymnasium will be knocked down to make way, the only problem is, these friends know that there is a body buried in the gymnasium and their long held secret may be revealed.
I was intrigued by the murder mystery trope being turned on its head, we know how the murderers are, we just don’t know why they murdered or what happened. The dual timeline unveils a twisty tale of friendship, love, deception and suspicion. Back in 1992 Vinca ran away with her charismatic teacher Alexis and neither have been seen since. Where did they go? Where are they now and how is buried in the gymnasium?
Even now, a quarter of Century on Vinca still has a hold over Thomas, hugely successful novelist and one of our culprits. He was madly in love with her, completely devoted and when she sidelined him was utterly heartbroken. We see her through his eyes, an enigmatic and alluring woman who he admits he has “fashioned by my passionately romantic teenage self”. She is kept at a distance from the reader, we never really get close to her, viewing her only through the prism of how others see her, adding yet more intrigue to her legacy.
The difference between the Thomas we meet in 1992 and the present day Thomas is striking. Guillaume Musso uses the time jump to demonstrate just how our past can affect our future. Thomas in particular has let his teenage actions cast a long shadow over his life, isolating himself from friendships, relationships and his family too. Upon returning to his hometown on the Côte d’Azur (described in gorgeous and luscious detail) he discovers that his childhood best friend Maxime has a better relationship with his parents than he does. There is a poetic sadness in the way the secret has eaten away at Thomas and Musso uses such things as his lack of relationship with his siblings to highlight the long lasting impact. It was these moments that really added to the intrigue and had me questioning what exactly happened.
The plot is inventive, clever and twisty. It is almost like a Russian Doll, mystery heaped upon mystery with layers and layers of secrets and deception. I read a fair bit of crime but didn’t see any of this book coming, which was a refreshing thing indeed. I enjoyed being swept away and allowed the clever flashbacks unfurl the plot slowly. It is deliciously dark read with an overarching sense of genuine peril. The gymnasium will be knocked down in a few days and for our culprits they are on borrowed time, once the body is found it will be easily traced back to them. Throw in an ex schoolmate who is a journalist with a sniff of a story and suddenly the stakes are even higher. Tension builds incrementally with clever flashbacks fleshing out the modern day story, adding a new perspective and reveal each time.
This was a huge success in France and I can see why. Clever and perceptive writing with an inventive and entertaining plot make this a real page turner of a book. More please.
About The Author
Guillaume Musso was the number one bestselling author in France in 2011 and 2012. Born in 1974 on the Cote d’Azur, he knew from an early age that he wanted to write novels and to touch the largest possible number of people.
In 2004, ‘AFTERWARDS’ was published in France by XO Editions and was an immediate bestseller and established a loyal following for his unique brand of storytelling which blends romance, adventure, suspense and the supernatural. It was later made into a film starring John Malkovich, Evangeline Lily and Romain Duris.
Since then, with every one of the six novels which have followed, his loyal readership has grown significantly, making him the most widely-read author writing in French today.His stories have universal central themes: missed opportunities, second chances,the passage of time, lost love and redemption.
Cop drama’WHERE WOULD I BE WITHOUT YOU?’ and romantic thriller ‘THE GIRL ON PAPER’ is now available for the first time in English published by Gallic.
Where You Can Buy It
My thanks to Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers, Netgalley and Orion, W&N for an invitation to join the Blog Tour and for a copy of the book.