Alice, a not-all-that-young French police officer, wakes to find herself handcuffed to a stranger in the middle of Central Park, New York. All that she can recall from the previous evening is knocking back cocktails… in Paris. But before you point out that this is just a French take on the ‘Hangover’, the aforementioned-and-attached-to-our-hero stranger awakes to introduce himself as Gabriel, an American Jazz musician who claims that just last night he was knocking down pints of Guinness while performing in Dublin. Pfft, likely story. Alice, with her keen police-heightened instincts, can smell liars a mile off. But then there is blood on her shirt – how did that get there? And there is a bullet missing from her gun – where has it gone? These and the other million unanswered questions that open the novel are (of course) resolved through the exploration of our protagonist’s history as a younger officer heavily involved in a series of linked murders and the repercussions of that case on her own physical, personal and psychological health.
I thought Central Park was a decent enough thriller which probed at the reader’s curiosity in the opening chapters and then turning over each stone of the novel’s mystery with a few not-too-surprising twists on the way. It was, as we imagine was the author’s principal intention, entertaining and the narrative flowed well. Nonetheless this was my first Musso novel and I did note a number of frustrating elements that took the edge away from what is in principle an interesting, if unlikely, story. Firstly was how cheesy the novel is. From the supposedly-illuminating quotes which open each chapter, to the clichéd descriptions of landscapes, people, events, to the completely unnecessary, unwarranted, unwanted yet completely expected ending, there is little that is original in Musso’s writing. The story flows well but at the expense of the language which never forces the reader to think very much about the language used. Likewise I found the use of pathetic fallacy, which is constant, again to be unnecessary, clichéd, dated but it was something that I came to expect in the novel. The strongest section of the novel, I felt, was not to do with the suspense or the plot but the way Musso discusses the psychological effects of Alice’s trauma on her life and her thought processes as she faces up to it. Otherwise I thought Central Park to be a predictable, comfortable read which will entertain readers with its plot but certainly not with its literary prowess.
Central Park is published by XO Editions and is available here. (en français!)
You might (or might not) also want to check out XO’s ‘trailer’ (is this a new thing? – I’ve never seen one before!) of Central Park below: