TITLE: Death from the Woods
AUTHOR: Brigitte Aubert
The conceit of this story -- that the protagonist, Elise Andrioli, has lost the ability to move below the neck and is blind and mute due to being caught in a bomb explosion -- is both its strength and weakness. It's fascinating to be in Elise's head as she narrates this tale and yet, the situations that are presented seem tailor-made for her disabilities. I could see the seams.
A chance encounter with a young girl near the woods while sitting in her wheelchair sucks Elise into a murder mystery. The girl, Virginie, confides in Elise that there's a killer of young boys on the loose in their French neighborhood, and that she both knows who will next be killed, leaving Elise with the impression that she knows who the killer is. With only a slight movement of one finger as a means of communication, Elise sets herself to solving the mystery.
Slowly, Elise and her caregiver, Yvette, become part of the social circle revolving around Virginie's parents and these people, along with a police captain, confide in Elise and use her as a sounding board. Whatever Elise needs to know at each point in the progressing tale, someone manages to reveal to her at just the right time. Yet there is more to the serial killings than is first thought and the conclusion turns out to be rather ingenious, or would have been if I hadn't figured out half of it ahead of time simply because of things said and the fact that Elise can't see things for herself. But I don't want to give too much away. This is a rather clever mystery, but at its best, it gives the reader an intriguing peek/insight into the mind of a woman trapped inside her uncooperative body.
There's a sequel, but much as I enjoyed this, I'm not sure I want to read the next book. The most fascinating aspect of this book -- Elise's condition -- will no longer be fresh and it would need to depend more on the mystery to carry the tale. Still, this one is very much worth reading, even if you can see the pieces come together before Elise can figure them out.