The French Girl, by Lexie Elliott, is a British crime thriller which will have you pointing fingers and guessing ‘whodunit’, right up until the final couple of chapters.
The debut novel has been described as a one-sit read, but upon my first attempt at reading it, I managed a chapter before retiring it to the bookshelf. A few months later, I picked the book up again, and whilst a slow-burner, it was highly addictive and complete cover-to-cover within 24 hours.
Author Lexie Elliott is an Oxford graduate – like her characters in The French Girl – and has three crime novels out. I picked the book up for £1 in Poundland, which is a surprising treasure trove of indie books and 90s CDs.
The blurb for The French Girl reads: “They were six university students from Oxford–friends and sometimes more than friends–spending an idyllic week together in a French farmhouse. It was supposed to be the perfect summer getaway–until they met Severine, the girl next door.
“For Kate Channing, Severine was an unwelcome presence, her inscrutable beauty undermining the close-knit group’s loyalties amid the already simmering tensions. And after a huge altercation on the last night of the holiday, Kate knew nothing would ever be the same. There are some things you can’t forgive, and there are some people you can’t forget, like Severine, who was never seen again.
“Now, a decade later, the case is reopened when Severine’s body is found in the well behind the farmhouse. Questioned along with her friends, Kate stands to lose everything she’s worked so hard to achieve as suspicion mounts around her. Desperate to resolve her own shifting memories and fearful she will be forever bound to the woman whose presence still haunts her, Kate finds herself buried under layers of deception with no one to set her free.”
As the remains of Severine resurface, the crime thriller follows the lives of five – would be six – university friends who find themselves the prime suspects in a murder case. Pinning down the perpetrator depends on the accuracy of the evidence – including what day the well was filled in, and if Severine really was seen at the bus depot.
But Severine is seen throughout the whole book, as a ghost which haunts Kate. Severine – the mysterious French teen who slept with her boyfriend on the vacation. It would be easy for the French investigators to believe it was she who committed the crime – and a number of times throughout the book, you certainly consider the possibility yourself.
If you’ve read and loved The Heatwave, by Kate Riordan, then you’ll adore The French Girl. Though, it doesn’t flit back and forth in time as you would expect – everything is set 10 years on from the incident, remembered in snippets.
The French Girl is packed with twists, lies, betrayals and secrets between a complicated web of friends – and no matter how many times you guess the ending, you’ll never hit the nail on the head. Other twists in the story are slightly more predictable, but satisfying and entertaining nonetheless. Pieces of new information are fed to the reader chapter by chapter, not quite fitting into the jigsaw of the bigger picture to reveal the killer. And it’s not just who, but how?
Lexie Elliott’s The French Girl was entirely engrossing and full of suspense. I could barely put the book down once the story had me hooked, and I’ll certainly be picking up Lexie’s subsequent novels. The mystery will see you speeding through the pages to reveal the truth.