Saturday, February 20, 2010

"What To Do When Someone Dies" by Nicci French

Ellie is understandably shocked when she is informed her husband Greg has died in a car accident. Even worse, there was another woman in the car with him - a woman by the name of Milena Livingstone that she has never heard of before. She begins obsessively detailing every moment of the last month of Greg's life in an effort to prove that Greg and Milena were not having an affair. The police and her friends think she is acting crazily out of her grief, but nothing will stop her in her mission to show that there was something fishy about Greg's death.

A visit to Milena's business partner Frances is initially out of curiosity, but she winds up offering her services to help clean up the business, which is in disarray after Milena's death. She gives her name as Gwen (one of her closest friends), and this new "job" allows her more personal access into Milena's life, which only exacerbates her obsession with making everybody believe that her husband was not an adulterer. Is she simply crazy? Or is there something more to Greg's death than the police investigation or inquest revealed?

For the first 100 pages or so, the book really lives up to its title. Ellie mourns, attends the inquest, organises the funeral - all the details one would conceivably attend to after the death of a spouse. It doesn't exactly make for exciting reading. Things pick up somewhat after she deceptively gets the job at Milena's old business. There's an effective undercurrent of suspense as we wonder just how much of a hole Ellie will dig for herself, and whether the new people in her life should be trusted or not. Although not a lot ever really happens, I was quite drawn into the story - more than I thought I would be after the very slow start. French takes us into every corner of Ellie's psyche, delivering one of the more fully-rounded main characters I've come across in a suspense thriller. Ellie isn't always likeable - often quite exasperating - but she feels real, which is why I kept reading to find out what happened to her.

"What To Do When Someone Dies" isn't for those who like their thrillers zippy and twisty, that's for sure. But through perserverance I was totally sucked in and ended up quite enjoying the experience.

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