A plane crash and the identity of its lone survivor form the delicious premise for Bussi’s novel.
It’s 1980, and a plane en route from Istanbul to Paris crashes into the side of a mountain. Everyone aboard is killed, but searchers find one survivor, an infant girl who's been improbably thrown from the plane. The 3-month-old baby is immediately hailed as a miracle child and would be reunited with her grandparents except for one small problem: there were two baby girls on the flight, and neither set of grandparents has ever seen their granddaughters. Up springs a battle to claim the little girl, with a rich family, the de Carvilles, on one side and a poor family, the Vitrals, on the other. But a man who has investigated the case for 18 years is at the center of the drama. Crédule Grand Duc, a private investigator hired by the de Carvilles to prove the child is their Lyse-Rose and not Emilie Vitral, has finally determined the child’s identity. Complicated by the fact that DNA was not a commonplace identifying tool until the later 1980s, the action moves back and forth over the years as the two families tussle over the child, to the present day of the book, which is 1998. Bussi has an intriguing premise, but many things about his narrative will frustrate readers, including DNA test results that no one bothers to read, and when people do, they keep the results secret. Lyse-Rose’s older sister, Malvina, is a heavy-handed villain; Emilie’s brother, Marc, is also the girl’s lover, adding the possibility of incest to the mix; and Grand Duc’s recounting of the events, in a notebook he left behind at his death, is a meandering mess that’s like a long-winded uncle stretching a one-minute story into a three-hour monologue.
Lots of initial promise, but the plot proves improbable and the execution melodramatic.