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Smiley face After the Crash by Michel Bussi | Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.5)

Emilie grew up. She had the Vitrals' blue eyes and the de Carvilles' refined tastes. The kindness of the Vitrals... and the money of the de Carvilles.

As a note, a printed galley of this novel was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.

After the Crash, newly translated from French to English, is a superb addition to any lover of a good old fashioned detective novel’s private library; it does not skip out on crime, the details, mystery and thrills. In fact, Michel Bussi writes a novel that is so satisfying and enthralling, I daresay those who don’t typically dip their toes in the genre will fall under its spell.

It follows a pretty standard formula when it comes down to it, but I will say that its conclusion really threw me for a loop and may have blown my mind a little bit. Truly, the final twists knocked me down a few pegs and both frustrated and delighted me.

I have mixed feelings on the conclusion but I don’t hate it!

As for captivating its audience: I particularly loved how the novel drew me in from the start–that moment we saw into the past as the plane reached its end and the chain of events that followed. Bussi makes it impossible to put this bad boy down because from the very first moment, you’re hooked and I could barely look away.

But let’s get back to basics, shall we? A crooked, suicidal, detective has been trapped in a case for years. The case being that of a plane crash which killed every one on board except for a three month old girl. Set in a time where DNA testing wasn’t all that plausible, still in its early stages, it was debated for years on whether or not the child was one of the two girls on board: Lyse-Rose, of an incredibly wealthy family or Emilie, one from a more modest upbringing.

There was a lot to it, the novel and the mystery. But one question remained through the years, which girl survived: Lyse-Rose or Emilie?

If the start of the novel–that glimpse into the final moments of the plane and passengers–didn’t capture your attention, our introduction to the detective Credule Gran-Duc will. You see, in between timelines he was hired to investigate the case discreetly by a member of the wealthier family and ever since then, he has been keeping track of everything in regards to the case. His notebook full of everything he has learned and discovered plays a huge part in the story.

One day, the eighteenth birthday of the only survivor, he has decided to kill himself and begins to set the stage for his own death. However, a surprising discovery hits him in the face right before he pulls the trigger and at last, he has solved the mystery.

But we’ll get to that. Back to the crash…

Deeply rooted in its tragedy, the miracle child had captured the public’s attention for some time. And how could she not? A poor, innocent child of only a few months lost everything: her parents, her belongings, and eventually became the subject of a brutal custody battle.

She lived while over a hundred passengers and crew died.

She is innocence personified.

She is a reminder of tragedy.

Both Lyse-Rose and Emilie’s remaining relatives–including two grandparents for both girls, Emilie’s older brother, Marc and Lyse-Rose’s older sister, Malvina, who are still so little themselves–come forward to claim the child and are certain that she is their own.

It wasn’t a tricky case to resolve and both sides weren’t afraid to bring out their claws a bit. After Lyse-Rose is declared perished, Emilie the one who survived, ‘Emilie’ goes on to live a relatively normal life with her grandmother and Marc, the elder sibling.

The two families engage in something of a war amongst themselves and to say things get twistier and more dangerous would be an understatement.

You see, because of the lack of scientific ability to identify who the young child was from the start, both families live in the dark in many ways never quite knowing which child survived.

Mathilde de Carville insists that in spite of the verdict it was Lyse-Rose who survived and eventually hires the detective to investigate and puts her nose, frankly, where it doesn’t belong. During this time, the detective begins his quest for answers and jots everything down to keep track of it.

The notebook in question is sent to Emilie–or Lylie, as she is so often called; a hybrid of the names Lyse and Emilie–on her 18th birthday and sets off the chain of events that will soon follow.

It’s totally hypnotic how everything unfolds and at the pace in which it does. I don’t think that everyone will appreciate the pace or the conclusion, but I adored every minute of it and could hardly put it down. Hell, I usually can at least form a few coherent endgames for mysteries but this one I did not see coming… not even slightly. Things start to grow more dangerous as murders occur and well... you're going to be surprised.

Beyond the mystery and its shocking conclusion, I appreciated the characters greatly. Each of the families suffered great loss and provided something different for the plot. I loved getting to know them–flaws and all–and felt truly for them by the end of the novel.

I thought it was interesting seeing Marc’s feelings and how he had longed to know whether or not Emilie was really his sister. He often thinks of himself as a monster because of the way he feels for her–it isn’t at all brotherly and he is truly convinced that they aren’t related by blood.

There’s a lot that can be said about their relationship but I will say that it’s complicated and its resolution surprised me.

And then there’s Malvina de Carville, Lyse-Rose’s older sister who traveled before the family and survived by pure chance. She is incredibly ill from the years that passed and the loss she suffered as well as the hope that her little sister had survived. Personally, she is the most fascinating out of the core characters and as a whole she is the most chilling.

In a story like After the Crash, there’s so much dysfunction amongst both families and all the characters that it can be a bit muddled and even frightening from time to time. You’ve got two families from different backgrounds but when it all boils down to it, there’s similarities between the two. One minute you can feel entirely sympathetic towards both and the next you could find yourself wanting to slap a few of them.

Marc, Lylie and Malvina especially are not characters I am bound to forget. They’re haunting me even now, after I turned that final page and everything was resolved. I wanted to see more of the aftermath but there’s not much that can be done about that.

In truth, I can’t say anything more about the story without spoiling it and it’s something you have to experience for yourself. I will say that After the Crash, though flawed, is perhaps one of the best crime novels in recent years–it’s well thought out, the plot has an undeniable spark and mystery to it, and the writing is rich.

After the Crash shows a raw look at the lengths that a family would go to to retrieve a loved one. There’s nothing basic about the way the story unfolds and it gave me the chills multiple times.

All and all, it was–is–an exceptionally satisfying read.

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