Comic review: Black Water Lilies by Duval, Cassegrain and Bussi
Black Water Lilies
Frédéric Duval - script, Didier Cassegrain - art, Michel Bussi - original story
Never judge a book by its cover they say, and that's doubly true when it comes to graphic novels, where the cover art might be promising but the interior artwork often never quite lives up to it. Not so in the case of Black Water Lilies, where the interior art by Didier Cassegrain surpasses the cover with stunning imagery and measures up to the somewhat high demand of capturing its picturesque Normandy village location of Giverny very much in the spirit of Monet.
In the case of Black Water Lilies however, and it is a 'case' since it's a crime thriller, the evocation of Monet is central to the mystery and the metaphor of not judging a book by its cover also applies to the three characters that Michel Bussi (author of the original novel that this graphic novel is based upon) introduces at the start of this intriguing mystery. There's an almost Agatha Christie-like elegance combined with brutality in the staged planning and, ahem, execution of the crime indicated on the cover and on the crimes that follow and indeed precede it.
On May 13th 2010, a wealthy local businessman Jérôme Morval, resident of the exclusive Rue Claude Monet in the picturesque village of Giverny, is found murdered (as you can see by the cover) in circumstances that are rather pretty for such an ugly killing. Morval has been killed in three different ways; the stab to the heart would have led to certain death, but the victim also has a massive gash to the skull, his body then submerged in the river.
Is there a reason why Morval has been killed three different ways? Might there be not one but three murderers? Well, Black Water Lilies focusses on three women, none of whom seem likely murderers: one is an 11 year old schoolgirl, the other a 36 year old school teacher, and the other an 80 year old woman who appears to be observing events or watching a plan unfold. None of them appear to be acquainted with each other and yet there are somehow connected to the death of Jérôme Morval. Never judge a book by its cover indeed.
Inspector Sérénac has a few leads, mostly related to alleged affairs and some anonymous photos, but there's a connection to an art Foundation competition run in Giverny. The Inspector has a suspect very much in mind, but he seems smitten with suspect's wife, the sexy schoolteacher Stéphane Dupain and that may be clouding his judgement. And if Monet's mythical Black Water Lilies painted on his deathbed really exists, might this have something to do with the case?
Michel Bussi's clever thriller keeps the detective and the reader guessing with some ingenious plot developments and surprising revelations that pose a certain number of difficulties for adaptation to graphic novel. And yet, the flow of the work is brilliant, the artwork persuasive and even clever at introducing its own visual clues, twists and revelations that makes you want to backtrack and read it all again in a new light. And such is the beauty of Duval and Cassegrain's Black Water Lilies that you'll be more than happy to go over it all once again.