The Moment Before Drowning has many colorful characters, but most are mere stereotypes ... The mystery at the heart of The Moment Before Drowning is underwhelming ... The Moment Before Drowning is a highly lyrical novel. Brydon’s prose is exquisite, and he certainly knows how to set a scene. The problem with this book is that it is preachy, intentionally cerebral, and its plot goes nowhere. The pleasure of reading this book is also constantly undercut by the many (and repetitive) flashback scenes set in Al-Mazra’a. It could be argued that The Moment Before Drowning might have been better off as a short story or novella, not a full-length novel.
The launchpad for this challenging novel is familiar ... The beautiful turns of phrase stall the narrative and, as they pile atop one another, start calling attention to themselves rather than the people, places, and events they’re meant to describe. Still, as an effort to blend literary style with crime-fiction content, the novel, while not entirely successful, should prove satisfying to those more interested in the former than the latter.
Brydon’s The Moment Before Drowning is one of the season’s most remarkable debuts and the launch of a complex and truly memorable protagonist, Captain Jacques le Garrec, a lion of the French Resistance, now disgraced by his intelligence service in Algeria and returned to his hometown in Brittany, where he’s promptly charged with investigating a cold case murder. Le Garrec has stepped directly out of a Jean-Pierre Melville film and into a seaside murder mystery, a noir and ambiguous figure setting out to right wrongs in a world ever more unknowable.