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Complicit by Nicci French


The interesting thing I discovered about Nicci French when I cracked this book open is that she isn’t one person – she’s actually the pseudonym for Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, British writers who are married and write bestselling thrillers together – this book is their twelfth collective endeavour.


It’s written in a very interesting style that works perfectly with the plot – it alternates between the before and after timeframes of the murder of one of the characters, Hayden.


Each before and after entry varies from between half a page to several pages, and they’re in different fonts so you can easily tell them apart.


The book opens with an after passage, with Bonnie Graham, the protagonist and narrator, standing in her friend Liza’s flat, looking at a dead body.


Bonnie is a music teacher who has spent the summer in London rehearsing with a band, a group of acquaintances that have come together temporarily to play at a wedding – as the book unfolds, the band members find their friendships starting to unraveling under the pressure of various tensions and romantic liaisons and collapses.


One of the very clever aspects of the plot development is that Nicci French avoids for some time revealing the identity of the dead person, so as we go back and forth between the before and after, learning about each character and how they are connected to each other, we’re also trying to work out who it is that’s come a cropper and what motive another character might have had to kill them.


It’s very easy to keep track of what’s going on, despite the alternating timeframes, because the after part starts right with the newly dead body, and the before part starts with the band getting together, so there’s a natural chronology to all the events.


As crime thrillers go, this is an unusual one – it is a whodunit, but not a classic one in say the style of Agatha Christie – although it’s in the first person, you don’t really know whether you can trust Bonnie – she’s what you would call an unreliable narrator – and in fact most of the characters seem to have some malevolent or unlikeable aspects to their personality, or some ulterior motive, so you can see any one of them being capable of murder, and once you find out who the victim is, it’s not hard to see how this person might have prompted someone to kill them.


So what you have is a mélange of complicated people and complicated relationships, and it’s the job of the writers to turn this into a suspenseful story with an unpredictable ending, which I’m pleased to report they have done – this is a good read for anyone looking for a thriller that’s a bit off the beaten track.


This review previously appeared on Coast.co.nz


Reviewer: Stephanie Jones

Published by Penguin


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