Where Would I Be Without You? by Guillaume Musso

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Where Would I Be Without You? by Guillaume Musso

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Trish Simpson-Davis
Reviewed by Trish Simpson-Davis
Summary: Translation of French best-seller. An easy read, with an interesting mix of romantic and crime genres. A French cop vies with a Scottish master criminal for the American girl who means so much to both of them.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 348 Date: April 2011
Publisher: Gallic Books
ISBN: 978-1906040345

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I love the cover, which I think angles this book firmly towards women. With that old Beach Boys hit from the Sixties as the title, it encapsulates everything you need to know when choosing this book. It's not really crime fiction, in that it lacks a whodunnit aspect in favour of following the protagonists, a French cop and a Scottish master criminal, through a romantic entanglement and into the jaws of death. The interest is in which of the two men will gain command of the other – and who is really driving the action – when both their attentions are focused on the same girl.

Although it seemed a rather predictable plotline at the outset, the climax of the novel was unusual enough to have me hooked. A good read, and eventually I wasn't going to put the book down until I'd finished! The story is set in San Francisco and Paris at three time points thirty years apart and each of these times is strongly evocated. The relationships are dramatically punctuated by the transatlantic flights that separate or unite the lovers. I loved the elegant twisting of strands into this flight theme, as for example when the modern Gabrielle flies an old seaplane, well known to Archie, from the earlier period … and of course, the final scenes in the story.

The book proved an easy read, and I imagine if your French is up to it, a rewarding choice in the original language. The translator has either imported, or chosen, a voice that still sounds French to my English ears. Funnily enough I liked that slightly-stilted formality; it reminded me of halting real-life conversations with French speakers and brought me closer to an otherwise lofty omniscient narrator.

Musso's characters are likeable, which for me made it all a feel-good read rather than crime fiction. Archie's top-of-the-range art crimes are so meticulously planned and executed that he never has to resort to violence, and he works alone without ever coming into contact with less salubrious characters from the criminal underworld. I suspect I won't be the only female reader to feel relieved that neither the language or action of this novel are gratuitously violent.

Gabrielle and Martin are obviously meant for each other, so what took the pair so long to get together? I guess Guillaume Musso isn't the sort of writer to let his characters work out their own destinies. His elegant plan, and insistence on tying in every plotline knot perfectly, eventually sacrifices reality to suspense. Nevertheless I really enjoyed 'Where Would I Be Without You?' and I'd like to thank the publishers for sending this book.

Suggestions for further reading:

If you enjoyed this book's ending, then I've just got to recommend David Eagleman's short stories, Sum. Another couple of tempting translations from the French mass market are Anna Gavalda's Consolation (which Bookbag's reviewer loved). Half a dozen of Guillame Musso's novels are in print in the UK (look on Amazon), but only “Will you be there?” looks to be available in an English translation.

Buy Where Would I Be Without You? by Guillaume Musso at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Where Would I Be Without You? by Guillaume Musso at Amazon.co.uk.

Buy Where Would I Be Without You? by Guillaume Musso at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Where Would I Be Without You? by Guillaume Musso at Amazon.com.


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