We run a book club for our Patreon supporters each quarter, where we all read the same True Crime non-fiction book and then discuss this. Previously we have read titles including I Survived by Victoria Cilliers, and Manhunt- The Night Stalker by Colin Sutton, amongst others.
We then have a live event one evening where Mark & I discuss the book together, and invite our Patreon supporters to share their thoughts about too. Often our listeners come up on the screen with us, it’s a lot of fun, and we always have such a good time just chatting and having a drink together. The book club is open to Patreons on all tiers of support. We have even had special guests on the screen including the aforementioned SIR Colin. Did you know I love him? haha!
This time the book we read was Ill Met By Moonlight by René Weis.
The synopsis reads:
On a steamy August night in 1952, a British family settles down to sleep beside their car in a lay-by. Before daybreak all three of them, a father, a mother, and their ten-year-old daughter, have been brutally murdered.
In a remote corner of Provence two worlds collide under a full moon. The British family are pioneering scientists and cosmopolitan; the French family accused of the crime are farmers defined by their land and codes of conduct which struck outsiders as feral. The accused farmers closed ranks and lied repeatedly in the shadow of the guillotine and to save the family’s honour. An inspector calls. With extraordinary tenacity he tracks down the man dubbed ‘the monster of the farm of the damned’.
This is the true story of the most contested murder in France since the Second World War, the inspiration for films and tales of espionage, hit squads, wartime bullion treasure, and chemical weapons research. Doubts still linger locally in this part of France as to the final judicial outcome. Conspiracy theories about the reason for the murders are routinely aired, and some family members of the man finally convicted of the crime still claim his innocence.
There were some key themes throughout this book:
Lies: who lied, what they lied about, and what made them lie.
Innocence: from the outset I was struck by Elizabeth, she had clearly caught the hearts of the French public and the author painted a beautiful picture of this young girl struck by tragedy at such a young age.
The War: the second world war was still very much on everyone’s minds at the time of the case, and Sir Jack Drummond had been a key player in the UK during the war due to his work.
Class Divides: the author highlighted just how different the Dominicis were to the Drummonds, and how the lower class farmers may have been at a disadvantage during the trial with the language used in court.
We absolutely loved being drawn into the descriptions of the heat, the smells and the sights of 1950s Provence.
But both of us really struggled with this book.
And a lot of the book club group said they were the same.
We felt really guilty for not loving the book, as it is clear this has been an absolute labour of love for the author, however we just couldn’t get into it.
I felt as though there wasn’t a clear timeline, I would have preferred to have been told what happened, then the process of investigation, prosecutions and the facts relating to this, and for the author to then take us on his journey of investigating this crime and the lies told by the family. Instead I felt as though I was being pulled in many different directions, with segues into different topics, and back and forth in time. I wanted a little more structure. There were shocking facts about the murders which we didn’t learn about until a good third of the way through, and in fact it was at this point that we had a real-time retelling of what happened to the Drummonds, and I felt as though had we known about these at the beginning we would have understood the case better and therefore the rumours and conspiracy theories would have had more gravitas.
As I said, we both felt bad for not loving this book. We’d give it 3 stars out of 5; the content was fascinating and the author painted a vivid picture of Provence and the tragic murders of the Drummond family, but the writing style was hard for us to follow… perhaps we are just not academic enough.