Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Complicit by Nicci French – an exercise in what not to do at a crime scene

Bonnie Graham is in her friend’s flat. She is alone, except for the dead body lying in a pool of blood. What happened? What will she do? And is any or all of it her fault? Bonnie is a music teacher who has spent a long, hot summer in London rehearsing with a band. It was supposed to be fun, but the tricky knots of the band’s friendships began to unravel with each passing day. What was meant to be a summer of happiness, music and love turns deadly as lovers betray, passions turn homicidal and friendship itself becomes a crime. Someone in the band must be a killer. Is it Bonnie? And if not – who is it?

I have to admit that one of my (many) guilty reading pleasures is the novels of husband and wife team, Nicci French and so I turned to this book with a sense of some expectation. I say “guilty pleasures” because although the books are not obviously high literature (whatever that may be) they’ve always been page-turners for me even if they might not have much depth.

Plot here is all, and character simply a by-product, and sometimes in one’s reading life that’s precisely what you need. Complicit is not really that different from any other Nicci French novel. The plot on the whole zips along and has enough good surprises to keep any upper class potboiler reader satisfied.

I think the problem arises in the character of Bonnie – unusually for French, she’s not that likeable and for once I didn’t have much sympathy with her predicament. Perhaps, however, I’m simply demonstrating the bitchiness of the sisterhood, as it appears virtually every man in the novel, with the possible exception of Guy (an older band member) is in love with Bonnie. Yes, that did annoy me, but then again I’m only human. I really always am in the kitchen at parties …

She also does some incredibly stupid things, most of them involving that crime scene, what happens to the body and what she manages to do with it later on, oh dear me. And although we do find out, towards the end, that she has her (rather tenuous) reasons, it still wasn’t enough to make me any the more sympathetic to her plight.

However, in spite of all that, the way French writes still has me turning the page and desperately wanting to know what the heck happens next. And there are some glorious twists and turns in the plot which make the whole thing still worthwhile even apart from the irritation of Bonnie. The shock of Neal’s (another band member and – yes, you’ve guessed it! – in love with our heroine) actions was a delight and turned the whole story on its head. And then when I thought I’d got it all worked out and we were home and dry, along comes best friend Sonia (possibly not in love with Bonnie, but it’s hard to say) to put another major spanner in the works. Good for Sonia. That part of it I really loved.

The issues in the book that I also found interesting were the incidents of domestic abuse which were painfully realistic – though I wasn’t entirely convinced that Bonnie’s responses to said abuse were necessarily realistic for her, the scenes were in a generic sense well-handled. I also thought the conversations and interviews between Bonnie, her band and the investigating police were spot-on, so bravo to Mr and Mrs French for that.

I must also say a word or two about the end. It’s very clever indeed and just when we believe everything – somehow or other – has worked through its devious paths of complexity to a reasonable and relatively straightforward conclusion, a throwaway comment or two on that final page might possibly make the reader think again – or does it?… Definitely one for you to decide.

Complicit, Penguin Books 2010, ISBN: 978 0 141 04074 5
Also available as an ebook

[Anne sometimes wonders what she would do if she stumbled across a crime scene but thankfully thus far hasn’t had to put any of her plans into action.]

About annebrooke

Anne Brooke lives in Surrey, UK, and writes in a variety of genres, including gay erotic romance, fantasy, comedy, thrillers, biblical fiction and the occasional chicklit novel. When not writing, she spends time in the garden attempting to differentiate between flowers and weeds, and in the allotment attempting to grow vegetables. Occasionally, she can also be found in the kitchen making cakes. Every now and again, they are edible. Her websites can be found at:,, and (for fantasy fiction).

7 comments on “Complicit by Nicci French – an exercise in what not to do at a crime scene

  1. Melrose
    January 12, 2012

    Have to say I stopped reading Nicci French quite a while back. I am a bit of a wimp, and prefer my murders to be of “Midsomer Murder” type, perhaps just a tad more black on occasion, if I’m feeling brave, but with a little bit of humour. If I remember correctly, as it has been a while siince I read NF, I also got a bit tired of women coming to grief or in serious peril. It seemed a bit misogynistic, especially from an author who, at the time, I thought was solely a woman author. It put me right off “her”.

    Well written review, though, Anne, but the book just doesn’t appeal to me.

  2. annebrooke
    January 12, 2012

    Thanks, Melrose. Yes, it’s always the Women in Jeopardy theme, but heck she does well on it 🙂


  3. Jackie
    January 12, 2012

    Don’t think I’ve ever read any by Nicci French(and after Melrose’s comment, doubt that I will), but I can see how this one would rub me the wrong way with everyone being in love with our heroine. That gets so annoying, in books and real life.
    I do applaud the authors for bring attention to domestic violence, if it’s not used in a titillating way. The twist at the end sounds clever, too.
    Thanks for your humorous, yet respectful review, Anne. Always a pleasure to read.

  4. annebrooke
    January 12, 2012

    Thanks, Jackie! Yes, absolutely – the domestic issues are done very well indeed – no dubious intent at all, which at least made me feel better though it’s not an easy subject to read about.


  5. Hilary
    January 16, 2012

    I’ve never been tempted by Nicci French, but this one sounds like the one that might lure me in, as I do like music as a background. Thanks for the review, Anne!

  6. annebrooke
    January 16, 2012

    And she’s written about it before too, Hilary – there was a crime one about a violinist too in her backlist so there’s obviously a lot of musical knowledge there 🙂


  7. Pingback: 2016: Complicit (Nicci French) – Confessions of a Bibliophile

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This entry was posted on January 12, 2012 by in Entries by Anne, Fiction: crime and tagged , , , , .



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