Novel set mainly in Pisa
Mystery set on fictional Beaumont (Îles d’Hyères – Mediterranean)
27th July 2021
The Secret Life of Writers by Guillaume Musso, mystery set on fictional Beaumont (Îles d’Hyères – Mediterranean). Translated by Vineet Lal.
I do like a good map at the start of the novel. I was looking at a map of the Var coastline in Southern France and was struck how one of the Îles d’Hyères, just off Toulon, has exactly the same shape as the fictional Island of Beaumont in the novel. Being an experienced literary sleuth I put two and two together. The island has been given its very own unique, fictional and charming, sometimes quirky identity – the two restaurants on the island are called Wuthering Bites and Taming of the Stew. This is after all the story of an author and there will be plenty of literary references along the way.
On a trip to Cannes we took a boat out to the Île Sainte-Marguerite, just off the coast, and given the wonderful descriptions in the novel, I could easily transport myself back to that Mediterranean island as a point of reference, not that far East. The colours and sun would, I imagine, be just the same, with a convent and crenelated buildings and lush vegetation that is so prolific in that part of the world.
It is 2018 and Nathan Fawles is living as a recluse on the island. In the late 1990s he wrote his last novel to much acclaim and then simply stopped writing. Such a mystery to all his readers. Raphaël Bataille has taken a job as the local island book shop winds down, moving towards eventual closure; he too is an early days author and he has his eye firmly set on Fawles, who, he hopes, would surely critique his first novel. He does indeed attempt a meeting but Fawles is not having any of it and sees him off with a shotgun! He clearly does not want his privacy invaded.
Swiss journalist Mathilde Monney is also on the island, determined to discover why Fawles stopped writing and secure an interview. Then, the body of a young woman, pegged out on an ancient eucalyptus tree, is discovered and the island is cut off by the police, the whole land mass treated as a crime scene.
Links are just asking to be made and the characters soon get on with unravelling secrets. This is a very readable novel, with quirky and dark moments interspersed with humour.
Tina for the TripFiction Team
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