She appears, lithe and tanned, by the swimming pool one afternoon. Severine - the girl next door. It was supposed to be a final celebration for six British graduates, the perfect French getaway, until she arrived. Severine's beauty captivates each of them in turn. Under the heat of a summer sky, simmering tensions begin to boil over - years of jealousy and longing rising dangerously to the surface.
And then Severine disappears.
A decade later, Severine's body is found at the farmhouse. For Kate Channing, the discovery brings up more than just unwelcome memories. As police suspicion mounts against the friends, Kate becomes desperate to resolve her own shifting understanding of that time. But as the layers of deception reveal themselves, Kate must ask herself - does she really want to know what happened to the French girl?
The discovery of the remains of a young woman named Severine, a decade after she disappeared from her Dordogne home, jump-starts a murder investigation in British author Elliott's engrossing, if flawed, debut. It also stirs up memories for six Oxford University chums who got to know Severine during a week they spent at a Dordogne farmhouse. Hardest hit by the news is London legal recruiter Kate, who has never quite managed to get over her breakup after the aforementioned holiday with dashing Seb, a split hastened by his fascination with the elegant, enigmatic Severine. Already stressed trying to get her own headhunting firm off the ground and by the imminent return (after years in the U.S.) of both the now-married Seb and his cousin Tom to whom she has always felt a never-pursued attraction Kate really starts to lose it, to the point of seeing Severine's ghost. Elliott has come up with a promising premise and intriguing, if somewhat stereotypical characters, but ultimately doesn't seem to know quite what to do with them.