Friday, 11 October 2019

Time Is A Killer by Michel Bussi


Time Is A Killer by Michel Bussi
First published in French as Le temps est assassin by Presses de la Cite in France in 2016. English language translation by Shaun Whiteside published in the UK by Weidenfeld and Nicholson in 2018.

How I got this book:
Won a copy in a giveaway

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Summer, 1989. Corsica. Fifteen-year-old Clotilde is the sole survivor when her family's car plunges off a narrow road into a ravine.

Twenty-seven years later she returns to the island with her husband and teenage daughter in an attempt to come to terms with her past. But then she receives a letter - from her mother, as if she were alive.

It seems impossible. Clotilde watched her parents and her brother die that day in the ravine. She has lived with their ghosts ever since. But then who sent this letter - and why?


In the front of Time Is A Killer readers are told that Michel Bussi is the second-best-selling author in France and has won sixteen literary awards. Unfortunately, I couldn't see much evidence of that acclaim in this novel. The book is not a complete waste of time to read, but sadly I was mostly underwhelmed! To start with the positives, I appreciated the vivid descriptions of rugged Corsican scenery and glimpses into the history and culture of the island. I also enjoyed reading fifteen year old Clothilde's notebook entries which is how the 1989 storyline is told. An self-absorbed and exasperating teenager, she reminded me a lot of myself at that age so I could easily empathise with her awkwardness and vulnerability. Occasionally her physical observations of other female characters sounded more like the thoughts of a middle-aged man(!), but overall I liked young Clothilde and got happily involved in her late 1980s world. The slightly older teenage group she yearns to join were believable and their summer shenanigans made for entertaining reading.

Adult Clothilde is basically a non-character though. I understand that the shocking deaths of her entire immediate family would have had major repercussions on her mental health, but twenty-seven years later, the grown-up woman doesn't seem to actually have a personality at all. Occasionally she remembers she is a lawyer and fills lawyer-y tropes such as marching uninvited into police stations and shouting at people, but mostly she is an object for other characters to revolve around. I found this very disappointing, especially as most of them aren't exactly fully rounded creations either.

The 2016 storyline didn't do much for me either. I know I usually find that mass market thrillers stretch my credulity, but this one lurches from barely plausible to utterly ludicrous and beyond! Perhaps if the narrative kept up enough of a pace that I didn't had time to reflect, then I might have been sufficiently swept into the excitement to let unbelievable moments pass. That isn't the case though. Bussi has characters repeatedly stop to ponder before they leap into yet more unrealistic stunts. I think Time Is A Killer must have been written with one eye on the film rights rather the creation of a coherent novel. I liked a third of the book as a nostalgic beach read, but the remaining two-thirds just didn't work for me at all.


Etsy Find!
by iKimmi Design in
Kunzing, Germany

Click pic to visit Etsy Shop


Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Michel Bussi / Thrillers / Books from France

8 comments:

  1. Sorry to hear this was so unconvincing! You saying that maybe if you didn't have to time to reflect did make me smile though! :)
    First time I read "this book was too slow to trick me into liking it" Priceless! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I should probably just give up on action thrillers altogether, but this one looked as though it might have been different :-/

      Delete
  2. I hate when I've looked forward to a read and it turns out underwhelming.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I allowed myself to be taken in by all the quoted praise which was a silly thing to do :-(

      Delete
  3. I really don't understand how lit awards are given sometimes. I mean i've read a few books that has won awards and I can really see why, but most of the time, I'm a bit loss for words.

    I'm glad you're able to find something to enjoy about this one, though. I hope you won't be deterred to read more from the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately I probably won't try Bussi again, but there's so many authors out there waiting to be discovered!

      Delete
  4. I am sorry that this one didn't really come through as a good one for you and that even though the author is critically acclaimed it didn't show! Non-characters really don't work for me either... and I need some realism to the plot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This would probably be a good read for real action thriller fans, but I need my reads more grounded

      Delete