This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
09.07.20 / Psychological / W&N (Orion) / Hardback / 400 pp / 978-1474601856
Target Audience: People looking for a fast and dynamic psychological thriller surrounding a mysterious death that stretches the mind of the protagonist to its limits. A truly satisfying read that makes you question everything you learn about a man who just wanted to help a woman from falling.
About Never Forget
REVENGE IS WORTH WAITING FOR…
Jamal loves to run. But one morning – as he is training on a path winding up a steep cliff – he stumbles across a woman in distress.
It’s a matter of seconds: suddenly she is falling through the air, crashing on the beach below.
Jamal is only an unlucky bystander – or is he?
His version of events doesn’t seem to fit with what other eyewitnesses claim to have seen. And how to explain the red scarf carefully arranged around the dead woman’s neck?
Perhaps this was no accident after all.
Or perhaps there is something more sinister afoot – a devilish plan decades in the making, masterminded by someone hell-bent on revenge.
“The first thing Jamal saw, just past the sign pointing to the Rivage campsite, was the red scarf. It was fixed to the fence like a danger sign. That was Jamal’s first thought: Danger. A warning of a rockfall, a flood, a dead animal. The idea passed as swiftly as it had come. It was just a scarf caught on barbed wire, lost by a walker and carried away by the wind coming off the sea.”
Jamal Salaoui is on vacation, running along Valleuse d’Etigues in Yport when he discovers an expensive red scarf and moments later, a distressed woman who wants to end her life. Despite Jamal’s efforts to diffuse the situation, the woman jumps to her death. When Jamal finds her body on the beach below, the red scarf that slipped from his grasp is wrapped around the woman’s throat. Jamal can’t believe his eyes. She jumped, he had just tried to help.
Jamal and two other witnesses that saw her fall are questioned by the police but their accounts don’t add up. As the discrepancies begin to amount, Jamal quickly becomes a suspect. He decides to comply with the police’s investigation. Before the initial police interview, Jamal had received an envelope, sent by an anonymous source, that contained information on an incredibly similar double murder investigation that occurred in the area a decade earlier. The resemblance is haunting but Jamal sees this an opportunity to plead his innocence.
As Jamal tries to explain himself, the police inform him that the girl died from asphyxiation before she fell and his fingerprints were found on her body. Jamal escapes custody before he can be detained and, with help from an unlikely friend, attempts to retrace his steps to find the truth of what happened on that beach. Walking back through each step that led him to his accusation starts to unravel his mind. More envelopes arrive and more history repeats itself.
Jamal’s desperate search for answers, past and present, forces him to ask himself: Are the police setting him up as a scapegoat for murders he didn’t commit? Is someone pulling the strings, enacting revenge on the wrong person? Or is he actually guilty of being a murderer and a monster? The series of events that follow are both captivating and intense, making Never Forget an absolutely stunning psychological thriller that will set a challenge to all readers to figure out the truth in a maze of psychological instability, revenge, doubt and survival.
I personally tend to judge the success of psychological thrillers (especially those that centre on a mystery) on one merit. The main suspects such as pacing and plot developments (or twists and turns) that keep me guessing and interesting characters or locations that add spice to the narrative are of course vital. Never Forget definitely does shine in all these aspects.
Though, for me, it is ultimately about how strong the need for answers is to the big questions that a novel lays out in front of us. That tortuous thirst to know the truth, everything else be damned. A plot so thick that it leaves me desperate to look ahead in the pages left because I just have to find out what really happened. Michel Bussi’s Never Forget hit the mark so damn perfectly that as it began nearing the soaring conclusion, I couldn’t help but scan the remaining pages to find a hint of closure before I faced the truth head on.
Never Forget is an immensely enticing psychological thriller that is as sharp as it is surreal that left me dazed by its magnitude and satisfied by the ever-changing outcome that lands like a slap to the face in the final pages. Never Forget even states that Michel Bussi is the king of the killer twist but I had not expected the depth of possibility that played out in front of me. The part of my brain that deals with speculation is resting until further notice. I know I sound like I’m raving but Never Forget is truly the real deal. A bona fide mystery that begins from the first page with a momentum that never ceases for a second, even when the story jumps amongst present and past, leaving me unable to firmly grasp any theory that my mind threw my way the whole way through.
On top of this you have a memorable cast of characters who slide in and out of focus, rarely ever seeming the same way twice. A central character that faces multiple prejudices for race and disability, believing people are out to get him, who lives life with a target on his back yet still pushes forward despite limitations. A hopeless family collective who want justice for everything they’ve lost. And a region who want answers to an investigation that still haunts the land.
As each individual faded in and out of Jamal’s perspective, the doubt began rapidly piling up for both himself and for me. Thoughts easily become jaded and it swiftly begins harder to clear the mind and put the pieces together. Especially as history catches up to current events. I thought those sections were handled really well, even at one point being more interesting than the present day chaos. Jamal and I were reacting to each new development at the same time as it happens and it was definitely exhilarating even when my doubt of Jamal was at its peak.
The psychological aspect of the narrative is superb. Exploring psychological tendencies in deeply compelling ways. Reactions to trauma, guilt, grief, punishment or love and friendship are weaved into the narrative so well, giving a further dimension to the inner turmoil that plagued both Jamal and myself.
There was a nice little touch that I don’t think I have ever seen in a novel such as this. Jamal, knowing how his account of events is going to sound, takes a moment to address the reader directly and asks them, despite other accounts such as police reports, to take everything into consideration before passing judgement. I quite liked that moment as it came back to me time and again as I got further and further into the plot. The only sincere complaint I have is that sheer amount of changes in tone near the beginning of the novel as I felt it got in the way of the initial build up but I needn’t have worried as Bussi had plans for me later on.
I didn’t have huge expectations for Never Forget as I have read hundreds of novels that seemed in some ways similar but I got yet another lesson in not jumping to conclusions. Michel Bussi is a clever and dynamic storyteller who is more than happy to detach minds from reality to deliver a hard hitting thriller that smashed my expectations to pieces and gave me another solid read to rave about to other readers. I can’t recommend Never Forget enough and I am already planning to visit Bussi’s other works to see if there is more thrills to be had.
About Michel Bussi
Michel Bussi is the author of many bestselling novels, including AFTER THE CRASH, BLACK WATER LILIES, DON’T LET GO and TIME IS A KILLER. He is one of the most succesful French authors of all time, with millions of copies sold internationally and over a quarter of a million copies in the UK alone.