Book review: Don’t Let Go by Michel Bussi

Monday, May 15, 2017 Permalink

I didn’t realise until I picked this book up that it was a translation. I had some bad experiences with translated books a few years ago and have pretty much stayed away ever since – which I know is very close-minded and English-centric of me. I can’t help but wonder how it works as well… so much of someone’s writing is caught up in the way they turn a phrase, which makes a translated book very VERY dependent on its translator. It’s almost as if they could make, or break, a book.

Book review: Don’t Let Go by Michel BussiDon't Let Go
by Michel Bussi
Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson
on April 27th 2017
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 1474601782, 9781474601788
Pages: 336

In an idyllic resort on the island of La Réunion, Liane Bellion and her husband Martial are enjoying the perfect moment with their 6-year-old daughter. Turquoise skies, blue sea, palm trees, a warm breeze.

Then Liane disappears. She went up to her hotel room between 3 and 4pm and never came back. Her husband, worried, had gone to the room along with the concierge - the room was empty but there was blood everywhere.

Despite his protestations of innocence, the police view Martial as their prime suspect. He was the only other person who went to the hotel room between 3 and 4pm according to the staff of the hotel.

Then he disappears along with his daughter. With Martial as prime suspect, helicopters scan the island, racial tensions surface, and more corpses are found. Is he really his wife's killer? And if he isn't, why does he appear to be so guilty?

As far as I could tell, this novel didn’t lose anything in its translation. I didn’t grimace at any awkward phrasing, however it was slightly disconcerting that the editor / publisher decided to keep a lot of Creole words in the novel. Words, which could have been easily translated (words for whore, beautiful girl, cannabis, idiot etc). I’m not sure of any significance of leaving them untranslated, but the regularity of the footnotes kept nudging me out of the narrative and I felt as if I was reading something vaguely academic.

That aside, the plot itself was interesting, though a little convoluted at times. I liked that Bussi kept we readers guessing about Martial and his involvement – particularly when we learn he once lived on the island – and though there were some indicators of potential motives, it’s not necessarily obvious until the climax is almost upon us.

I’m not sure how much of it was the translation, but the tempo and timing seemed a little mixed. Martial and his daughter’s scenes seemed to drag a little, while other parts of the plot flew by. And I have to admit I didn’t really engage with any of the characters, even though Bussi puts us in the head of several, including our police officers, (Aja and Christos), Christos’s lover Imelda (who I liked the most) as well as the Bellion family and some staff at the resort.

I was intrigued by this book and the mystery felt reminiscent of shows like The Missing or even Gone Girl, in which we know we aren’t privy to everything or all of the information. We know there are secrets and we know we perhaps should trust those we’re lead to believe we shouldn’t. I’m just not sure this completely delivers on that promise in the end… although I think it will certainly appeal to many.

I must note however that it was interesting to read a book set in an environment I’ve not previously visited / read about and Bussi does a very good job of placing readers on the island of Réunion, and we get a real sense of both the tranquility of its palm trees and beaches and menacing atmosphere of its volcano (the piton de la Fournaise) with its lava and ash-covered surrounds.

Don’t Let Go by Michel Bussi was published in Australia by Hachette and is now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.



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