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by Laurence Cossé
Translated from the French by Alison Anderson
Reviewed by Ceri Evans

I am sure that most people, certainly in the United Kingdom, can remember where they were when the death of Diana, Princess of Wales was announced. It was an event of such magnitude in the consciousness of the British public, or at least that is what was portrayed by the British press, that the country almost came to a standstill, shocked and devastated at the news of the death of its most beloved member of the Royal family. In An Accident in August, Cossé does not deal with the outpouring of sadness, but addresses the mysterious circumstances surrounding Princess Diana's death.

An Accident in August is a reimagining of the crash that led to Princess Diana's death from the point of view of an imaginary woman who became involved when her car was clipped by the car chauffeuring the Princess through the Pont De L'Alma tunnel in Paris. Lou is an entirely inconspicuous girl in her twenties, living a mildly rewarding life on the periphery as a chef in an outer suburb of Paris.

Lou is never approached by the police, but doubts fester in her mind as to whether she caused the crash. She grows increasingly more paranoid as the police investigation continues and conspiracy theories in the French press grow each day. Cossé's great achievement is the creation of an atmosphere of relentless and increasing tension. It becomes almost unbearable to follow Lou as her worry and paranoia increase. At points, I had to put the book to one side because I became stressed on Lou's behalf. She is quite irrational at times and unlikeable as a result, but then I suspect anyone faced with her situation might react in a similar way.

The book's achievement in tone and pace is also its downfall. Whilst following Lou's panicky thought processes is gripping, ultimately it becomes a little repetitive. Cossé adds a plot twist towards the end of the novel that briefly breaks the tension, yet nothing allows Lou to regain her sense of self control. If you take little pleasure in tense, suspenseful novels, I would recommend you take a pass. But for those readers who enjoy tense and thrilling reads, An Accident in August is a perfect choice.

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