Monday, February 9, 2015

Review: Petite Mort

Petite Mort
Petite Mort by Beatrice Hitchman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a delightful if not perfect debut, drawing on the magic of early cinema and a mysteriously lost film. It flips from the early 1900s to the 1960s as a journalist tracks down the star of the newly discovered film and looks for the missing scene.

We're taken back to Adèle Roux, a star-struck country girl who travels to Paris to get into the movies. She fails, of course, and ends up as the personal secretary to the studio's former star, Luce, and her manipulative husband, the cinematic entrepreneur André.

As Luce strives to get back into the movies and Adèle keeps her own ambitions secret, the relationship between the women intensifies to obsessive dependency. But there are other secrets in the house. Murder is in the air.

Hitchman handles the several plot threads with assurance, and the plot twist is surprising yet satisfying. Too much is made of the missing scene from the film, since it plays a minor part in the story and is never properly resolved. Similarly, André's back story is well told but doesn't really justify its place in the story as it neither advances the plot nor explains his personality. These are minor quibbles; Petite Mort is a satisfying and original mystery novel, with a good supporting cast of believable characters (although you do need to concentrate to keep up with them all) and prose that skips along nicely.

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