Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What You See Is Not Necessarily What You Get

Until It's Over, by Nicci French

Astrid Bell is a bicycle messenger living in a house with six housemates who are all pretty much life stragglers -- those Peter Pan people who should have started a career, but are still languishing in that gray area between young adult and full-blown grown-up.  They have a history together that includes friendship, romance, and an array of interdependencies.

But all good things come to an end.  The housemate who owns the house wants to live there alone with his new girlfriend.  The house is breaking up and everyone has to find new living arrangements.  Of course, this comes at the worst possible time.

Astrid has just been accidently knocked off of her bicycle by a neighbor who is then found murdered near the house.  In fairly short order, two other women are murdered and it is the hapless Astrid who finds the bodies.  It becomes clear that she is somehow connected to the murders and, to some extend, she and the housemates are all suspects.

That stress and the stress of breaking up the household lead to arguements as the housemates turn on one another.  Eventually, the killer among them is identified and arrested to the astonishment of all.

That's the first part of the story.  It basically shows what is happening, follows the breakdown of long-standing relationships, and possibly shows how little we really know about those closest to us.  What you think you know at this point, though, is mostly just enough off to be entirely wrong.

The second part is from the point of view of someone else, a sort of ghost in the machine.  Incidents that earlier seemed just the product of the group's disintegration begin to take on a new, more sinister meaning.  One of the housemates has been gathering information and then using it to push just a little at a weak point and watch the havoc that develops.

I enjoyed this book.  The first part did a good job of revealing the characters, their interrelationships, their little cliques and grudges, and the peculiarities of their housing arrangements.  The second part did a good job of getting into the head of the killer and revealing both shrewdness and madness.

The author, Nicci French, by the way, is actually the husband and wife writing team of Nicci Gerrard and Sean French.

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