I love a good detective novel, but one of my main problems within the genre is that so many of these novels would have been over in less than ten pages if the main characters had just had the common sense to call the police, especially because 90% of the main characters in these novels are white middle class men and women. Someone leaves dead animals on your doorstep? Call the police. You receive threatening emails from someone pretending to be your dead relative? Call the cops. Someone threatening to reveal your Deep Dark Secret? At the very least, contact a private investigator. Instead, they go at it alone, like Batman’s stupid cousin. It’s infuriating. Unfortunately, the main character in Bring Me Back is cut from the same cloth.
France, 2006. Investment banker Finn and his girlfriend Layla are returning from a skiing trip in France. They stop at a rest stop for a toilet break and leave the car. When Finn gets back, Layla is gone. At least that’s what he tells the police has happened.
Twelve years later Finn is happily engaged to Layla’s sister Ellen, but he has never been able to let go of Layla’s memory. So when someone suddenly starts leaving small Russian dolls on his doorstep – the same ones Layla used to carry around like a talisman – and he receives mysterious emails, he begins to wonder whether Layla is still alive. But if so, where has she gone? Why and where did she stay hidden for twelve years, and why has she come back?
For a large part, the quality of a detective novel relies on two things: the characters and the mystery. The mystery, in and of itself, is decent enough – in spite of Finn’s failure to call the bloody police – though it hinges on Finn’s ability to remember small clues about a woman he was only with for a year or so and hasn’t seen in over a decade. I found it gripping enough to finish the book, in any case. The characters in this novel are a bigger letdown. Finn is insufferable, and everyone seems far more willing to excuse his violent tantrums than they should be, though I will say he gets his comeuppance. Ellen is a wet rag, but she’s supposed to be because Finn is obsessed with Layla. She is the one who got away: passionate and beautiful, whereas Ellen is stable, responsible, comfortable. As for Layla, she doesn’t seem to have a personality aside from whatever character traits Finn imposes on her. The meet-cute in the story is not actually cute.
I did like the central mystery to the story, though I felt a bit cheated by the direction it went in. The hints that are given at the start of the novel are tantalising but turn out to be nothing but a red herring, and that felt like a let-down to me. Likewise, the conclusion was somewhat ludicrous and at the same time also quite predictable, and I’m not someone who guesses the ending of novels like these often. The writing is barebones, but that’s not an issue. Paris isn’t trying to become the next Shakespeare.
I mostly enjoyed this book, but I did feel let down by the characters and with how predictable it was. The ending didn’t do much for me either, though I will let you know: the dog is okay, people. THE DOG IS OKAY.