Don't Let Go - Michel Bussi

Don't Let Go - Michel Bussi ****

Michel Bussi's Don't Let Go is not a typical whodunnit. If there are doubts about the lead suspect's involvement in the initial crime, there's no question that he is implicated in some way and undoubtedly the cause of further crimes as events spin out of control. The question becomes more one of what has he done, what is he going to do, why is he doing it and who ultimately is responsible for making him do it. That's a lot of questions that are left hanging there for quite substantial part of the novel, and that alone should be enough to keep you involved, but there are a few other aspects that make this an refreshingly different spin on regular crime fiction.

Martial Bellion is in trouble. Seemingly with just about everyone, although to be fair Réunion out in the Indian Ocean near Mauritius is a relatively small island. Bellion's wife has gone missing while they are holidaying there, leaving a trail of blood and signs of a violent struggle in their hotel room. Bellion's version of events however doesn't tally with the witness accounts of the hotel staff, and it's not long before the police start to get a scent of something suspicious about his behaviour. Martial goes on the run with his young daughter leaving a trail of bodies behind him, but how far can you run on a small volcanic island like Réunion?

And, for that matter, what kind of police resources are you going to find on an island that size, what kind of internal pressures are they responding to and are they equipped to deal with this kind of incident? Well, that's another of the worthwhile elements that set Don't Let Go apart from the regular suspense thriller. Leading the investigation, Captain Aja Purvi, from a mixed race marriage, gives some insight into the kind of racial and social make-up of the island, as well as the kind of professional challenges she faces, but her French chief officer Christos Konstantinov and his relationship with the people on the island present another wider view of life on Réunion.

The main attraction of Bussi's crime thriller is not so much the crime - which without a body, a motive or even an indication to the killer/abductor seems initially difficult to grasp - as much as the incidental detail of this colourful and exotic location with its volcano, its history of slavery and working out what lies behind the race issues that persist there. There aren't any racial tensions as such - at least not openly - but there is very definitely an awareness of distinction in skin colour and certainly some islanders are treated differently than others, and this undoubtedly has an impact on the nature of the crime and the investigation.

With a good cross section of colourful characters and descriptions of life on the island, around the ports and out on the slopes of the volcano, you have a rather more complex picture of how life (and crime) operates there and that eventually pays off in terms of getting a better understanding of the nature of the trouble that Martial Bellion finds himself in. It might ultimately be something relating to his own family history, but it has strong ties that involves and affects the lives and businesses of others on the island. The death tally gets a little bit grim as the novel heads towards its final revelations, but there's a solid foundation here that gives Don't Let Go a certain distinction as well as delivering on all the expected fronts of crime, danger and intrigue in an undeniably thrilling conclusion.

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Don't Let Go by Michel Bussi is published by W&N

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