Mazarine by Charlotte Grimshaw
It is very hard to review this book without giving too much away about the plot. That would spoil the surprises. This is a very brief synopsis.
Francis hasn’t heard from her daughter Maya for two and a half weeks. This is unusual, they are always in touch somehow, even now Maya is living and working in London. Francis cannot get answers from Maya’s boyfriend Joe either, or from any of their friends.
Francis seems to gather dysfunctional relationships. Her adopted mother and father always cast her as being in the wrong. Now her ex-boyfriend Nick pops up where he is least expected. When she returns home one night to find Nick in her house, standing in Maya’s bedroom, she freaks out and flees the house. Heading out of Auckland into the Waikato she tracks down Joe’s mother, Mazarine. We then start on an extended journey around the world trying to track down Maya and Joe. Francis starts in London with some of Maya’s workmates. One of them recently committed suicide. Has that sent Maya off the rails? Mazarine follows Francis to London and the pair then move on to Paris and finally to Buenos Aires in their search for answers.
I am a big fan of Grimshaw’s style and have loved earlier works like The Night Book and Starlight Peninsula. I have mixed feelings about this latest book. Some parts I absolutely loved; as usual Grimshaw catches the sense of a place, in this case London and Paris, perfectly. The bond between Francis and Mazarine also has some wonderful moments where reactions are pitch perfect. But there are some aspects that feel wrong. Mazarine has a black spot in her eye, rather like the real-life Madeline McCann. This is mentioned so many times, and even called by its scientific name, coloboma, on several occasions, that I got annoyed. There are also so many sub-plots going on that I became slightly overwhelmed. There are ex-husbands, dead husbands, ex-lovers, dead publishers, European terrorism, Muslim prejudice, Chechen spies, a Russian hard drive, difficult parental relationships, a failure to read people and a German shrink called Dr Bismark. All have a thread running somewhere through the narrative. Is it any wonder that you reach the rather abrupt ending with a number of lose ends. Francis’ ex-lover Nick, as well as turning up in her house, also follows her to London and Paris, but we have no idea why or if this was relevant to the plot. Was he a sinister spy, a government agent, or was it pure coincidence? All in all I think the ending could have been better.
Reviewer: Marcus Hobson
Vintage, RRP $38.00