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Review: Mystery builds to satisfying ending

Debut novelist Lexie Elliott always wanted to be a writer. Thinking back on a summer vacation with her friends to a farmhouse in France, the idea for this novel was formed.

Kate Channing, her boyfriend Seb and three other friends spend a week at their friend Theo’s farmhouse in France. It’s the perfect reward for surviving Oxford University.

The six of them are the closest of friends — cousins Seb and Tom, childhood friends Caro and Theo and best friends Lara and Kate. Then the beautiful French girl, Severine, shows up next door and changes the dynamics of their friendships.

The day the friends are all set to return to London, Severine disappears.

Fast forward 10 years. Kate is living in London, starting her own headhunter business. Seb is married to someone else and is moving back to London. Tom and Lara are still Kate’s best friends, and Caro has ending up as a new potential client of Kate’s.

But Severine has come back to haunt them; her body has just been found at the bottom of the well at Theo’s farmhouse.

Theo can’t be questioned, because he was killed in Afghanistan. The five are now thrown back into what happened that week at the farmhouse and realize someone isn’t telling the truth.

I chose this novel because I love stories of friendships and secrets.

When Severine’s body is found and the timing points to one of the six likely committing the murder, the questions start to circulate in everyone’s minds.

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Who isn’t being truthful, what really happened that last night in France, and who is going to ultimately be the murderer? The story starts to unravel as Elliott takes you back to the week in France and into the minds of the five friends that are left to answer the detective’s unending questions.

Elliott immediately starts questioning every character’s motive. Why is Caro suddenly back in Kate’s life? Why is Seb moving back with his new wife? Since Theo can’t be questioned, can he be trusted? Elliott throws you into the lives of these 30-something professionals who thought they could put that week in France behind them. Now their lives and careers are hanging in balance as the investigation gets more and more intense, and the French are pushing to make an arrest.

The part of the story that really intrigued me was the introduction of Severine’s ghost, which only Kate could see. Severine loomed in Kate’s periphery, joining her at home, at work, after work at the bar, at dinner with friends and while she was being questioned.

At first, Kate can only see her bones or her skull, but as the investigation moves forward, Severine becomes a crucial character in the story of her own murder. She hovers around Kate, insistent that she isn’t forgotten.

Even though I guessed the murderer, and the story has a common second attempt at murder that I see in many novels as the killer gets desperate, I was still surprised by the conclusion of the investigation. I thought it might leave me angry, but it actually left me feeling like it was a bit more realistic than some other conclusions.

Is this a fast-paced thriller with a shocking twist? No. It’s more of a slow mystery that builds as you get to know the characters and their motives for keeping secrets for 10 years.

Elliott has talent and creativity. Since she used bits of her own idyllic trip to France back in college for this story, I am hoping she has other recollections she can craft into more twisted mysteries.

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