Bright and Deadly Things
reviewed by Pam Guynn
Great characterization and atmosphere are highlights in Lexie Elliott’s latest novel, Bright and Deadly Things. Emily Rivers, a recently widowed Oxford don is one of the few invitees to a remote mountaintop retreat in the French Alps.
The chalet has no electricity or running water, but does offer the opportunities to hike, read, work, and hopefully, heal. Among those attending are some friends as well as other fellows, graduates, and undergraduates.
However, things start inauspiciously for Emily. She misses her flight, and returns home to an intruder. Upon finally reaching the chalet, there are tensions among the guests and competition for a newly opened position leads to an antagonistic attitude between several of the attendees. When a student disappears, Emily knows she needs to determine who is telling the truth and who is lying.
The author does a great job of giving readers a sense of each character in the book. Their complex traits are shown to the reader through actions and words, not by telling. Several go through a transformation during the course of the storyline. Emily is a strong but vulnerable protagonist that readers can easily get behind.
The premise for this novel was good. However, the writing style resulted in uneven pacing for me with several slow spots. Despite this, the atmosphere and setting are almost alive. I could easily envision the chalet and the surrounding mountains, valleys, and walking trails.
The novel builds suspense in a way that pulls readers into the lives of the characters. The plot is intriguing and I wanted to know what was going to happen next, but the sense of urgency wasn’t at the level I expected. The plot has multiple suspects with realistic motives. Additionally, there are several twists and a few surprises along the way to keep readers engaged. I enjoyed the threads woven into the plot that gave clues of things to be unraveled, if a careful reader notices them. However, the ending is wrapped up a little too neatly and quickly. I felt the jump of a few months at the very end of the novel needed a few more details. Themes include disappearances, grief, competition for jobs, work and personal relationships, trust, greed, jealousy, and much more.
Overall, this novel was entertaining with characters that are emotionally rich. The descriptive narrative transported me to the French Alps. The chalet in this novel is real and the author’s note tells readers a little about it.
Berkley Publishing Group and Lexie Elliott provided a complimentary digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own. Publication date is currently expected to be February 14, 2023.