Lead Review (Bright and Deadly Things)
- Book: Bright and Deadly Things
- Location: Saint Gervais
- Author: Lexie Elliott
The Alps: “…I think there is something incredibly clean about it all: the verdant greens of the slopes before the grey alpine cliff faces emerge majestically, topped by pristine white snow. Up here, I can feel that sharp fresh edge to the air….”
The scene setting in the opening chapters of this novel is one of the sharpest I have read of late. Emily arrives in the very remote chalet in the Haute Savoie, where academics of differing levels and attainment have gathered for a reading week. The sun streams in, the wood of the building has that dusty overheated feel to it, the balcony railings are solid enough but rickety, and there is a curious grandfather clock, whose time varies – which is a phenomenon that in fact is impossible. There is a good sense of noir early in the proceedings. The chalet has no real running water to speak of (showers are taken under a local waterfall) and lighting is via candles – everyone is also vaguely cognisant that a fire destroyed the original building just 100 years ago.
Emily is a young widow, lost her husband, Nick, in a traffic accident. As the book opens, she has entered her home in Oxford, only to discover an intruder who absconds. She immediately leaves for the Alps and having hardly settled in, she is alerted to another break-in – this time at her office in college in Oxford. Her room now in the chalet, too, seems to have been subjected to a rogue intrusion, someone who seems to have been looking for access to Nick’s computer, the device she happens to have been carrying with her. it is all very unsettling.
The novel opens with a congregating crowd of academics, at varying stages of their academic careers, and Sofi comes to the fore, recently graduated; she a good-looking woman, who by all accounts has an agenda. Gossip in academia is rife, so chatter is taken with a pinch of salt until Emily happens to come across two of the characters in an inappropriate clinch, and shortly thereafter one of the group goes missing. The tension and mistrust begin to ratchet up.
The atmospheric backdrop is well depicted, much effort is devoted to the characters grappling with their situation. This can make the story feel slow and cloying, which reflects the gradual dawning that secrets and past histories can no longer be held in check.
A good read if you are a fan of locked room (chalet) mysteries, a richly told and slowly developed story.