Murder in the South of France by Susan Kiernan-Lewis
With a can’t-miss title, Murder in the South of France, and with a sweeping view of an open body of water, SKL caught my attention with the force of a typhoon. The first part of her book was descriptive without over-exposition. She describes time and place beautifully, her characters are well-thought out, the pace of the writing is superb. I read merrily along with the characters, the well-to-do conservative parents, the studious daughter Maggie who travels all the way to France to find her errant sister.
SKL shows us Maggie’s thought processes, how she interacts with new characters and I grew to like her. We see her longing to recapture her childhood closeness with her sister and we finally meet the niece Maggie had heard about from sketchy people she meets in France, who all give such terrible outlook on her sister-from drugs, to prostitution to getting pregnant and giving birth in a slum.
However, when SKL takes Maggie home, through some underhanded means, btw which ALWAYS comes back to bite us in the butt, we read through some torturous scenes that includes the child’s father. She lost me. I can read almost anything: except for child abuse. I could not read any further. With apologies to SKL, I know how difficult crafting a novel can be, but even hints of child abuse, child kidnapping, child abandonment will stop me in my tracks from reading any further.
If she had taken the plot in a different direction that did not include the child, I would have finished the novel. Without spoiling the book, I was hooked when the father dumped something out of his car. That was a twist I truly did not see coming. Also, at the same time, the previous scene pointed out the sub-plot that fished the novel for me.
SKL is really a talented writer, obviously knowing how to draw a reader in, very descriptive without over-exposition, treating time and place as characters, I still have to give 3 stars.