Thursday, 2 December 2010

Book review: Rendezvous

By Ester Verhoef
Translation from the Dutch by Alexander Smith
Published by Quercus Publishing Plc

Esther Verhoef is the author of Rendezvous, a book that can only be described as unputdownable. A term that I don’t particularly like but that is the only way to define this 345-page-long hardback.

The story opens in prison, where a desperate Simone is being held in a cell waiting to be questioned for what we’ll later find out is a case of murder. Unable to talk to anybody, she starts going through the events of the past year in her mind, trying to understand how she lost everything she had.

Everything had started when, together with her husband Eric and their two children, Simone had left behind the hectic city life of Amsterdam and moved to a little village in the south of France. On impulse, they had bought an 18th century house with the intention of turning it into a successful B&B. Between the present and that idyllic future, however, the renovation works posed a big obstacle for the couple, who, not fluent in French, didn’t know how to find trusted workmen to help them with their project.

It was then that, by chance, Peter had entered their lives. A Belgian man who had completely settled in the French village, he had a construction company that was thriving by helping foreigners fulfil their dreams of a sunny and quiet life. He seemed to be the solution to all of their problems. Or was he the source of more trouble ahead? Things took an unexpected and dangerous turn when Simone first laid eyes on Michel, a young and attractive man working on the house.

Simone, the loyal and obedient wife and mother, who had always followed her husband and complied with what was best for the family, was unable to restrain herself any longer. Or rather, she didn’t want to. The emigration, the sacrifices and Eric’s recent neglect suddenly became a burden and, for once, she just wanted to be free. Even if that meant making a huge mistake.

Narrated in first person, Rendezvous never ceases to keep its readers alert and, even when you learn to expect a twist in the plot, you can never imagine its full extent. Be ready to be blown away as you uncover betrayals, fear, sexual tension, blackmail, murder and, ultimately, unconditional love.

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