An Evil Clock Dominates a Chalet in Bright and Deadly Things

I’ve always had a thing about grandfather clocks. While some may find the smiling moon face, the swinging pendulum, the constant ticking, and the deep gongs comforting, even soothing, I find them creepy and unnerving. When my mother-in-law gifted us a large one, I silenced it, placed it in a corner, and tried to ignore it. Still, the time-keeper never failed to give me bad dreams. So Lexie Elliott’s mystery, Bright and Deadly Things – one thing being an evil grandfather clock – tapped into my nighttime fears.

Oxford Professor Emily Rivers is still mourning the accidental death of her husband, Nick, also a professor at the university, when she returns home to find someone has broken in. Nothing has been taken, but when her office is also violated, she believes that someone is after her husband’s research which could lead to a valuable patent. What she needs, Emily decides, is to get away. Fortunately, her colleagues will be gathering for a retreat at a rustic chalet located in the beautiful Alps. 

At the chalet, Emily is prepared to cope with the bare necessities – sharing rooms and bathrooms, no electricity, and an outdoor waterfall serving as a shower. What she doesn’t expect, however, is the grandfather clock that dominates the main room. One hundred years ago, the clock survived a fire that destroyed the chalet. Going through some of the diaries left behind by past occupants of the chalet, the clock is described as a malevolent force. When Emily tells the others about the clock appearing in her dreams, she finds she’s not the only one being haunted by the giant ticker.

Although Emily thought she knew her fellow professors well, and believes the students who were invited to the retreat can be trusted, when people begin to act out of character, she becomes concerned. She catches her dearest friend, Will, having sex with one of the students, Sofi, who then goes missing. Emily joins the search and taking a detour falls off a cliff landing near Sofi’s body. The young woman looks peaceful, but her death is declared a homicide by the French police.

As much as Emily hates to admit it, Will is a suspect. So is Jana, Will’s partner, who is undergoing IVF to try to get pregnant. Peter, one of the professors who worked with Nick and Sofi in the university’s intellectual property department, may have had a financial reason to get rid of Sofi. James, another student, had bullied Sofi online and was upset that she rejected him. While Emily would like nothing better than to go home, she, along with the others, is forced to stay until the investigation is completed.

Lexie Elliott (Photo Credit: Nick James Photography)

Anyone who has worked in academia knows that the environment can be cutthroat as professors vie for tenure, chairs, promotions, research labs, publication opportunities, and publicity. Forced together in the isolated chalet brings out the worse in this group of Oxford’s best. Emily realizes there’s no one she can trust and must rely on her own instincts to stay safe and alive until Sofi’s killer is found and she can leave.

Just when Emily believes things couldn’t get any worse, a fire threatens the chalet and everyone’s lives. Even deciding which “friend” she should trust to lead her away from danger means making choices that could lead to death. 

Lexie Elliott’s characters are intriguing and complex. Nothing is black and white. Even those whose actions appear suspect have redeeming qualities making it difficult to determine who might have killed Sofi. Emily’s transformation from grieving widow to tough investigator and interrogator – even putting her best friends in the hot seat – makes us root for her. And what she does to that clock, well, wish I had had her courage.

Bright and Deadly Things
Lexie Elliott
Top photo: Bigstock

About Charlene Giannetti (606 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. She is the author of 13 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her last book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Her podcast, WAT-CAST, interviewing men and women making news, is available on Soundcloud and on iTunes. She is one of the producers for the film "Life After You," focusing on the opioid/heroin crisis that had its premiere at WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, where it won two awards. The film is now available to view on Amazon Prime, YouTube, and other services. Charlene and her husband live in Manhattan.