The women that murder and cheat together, stay together

Maggie Braun

By A Contributor

Abbie Elliot, Winnie Brookes, Serena Schofield and Bryah Gordon, who’ve been friends for years, planned a girls four-day vacation in Monte Carlo. It turned out to be quite an adventure, but it wasn’t what they had in mind.

Abbie is an American mother who recently moved to Switzerland because her husband, Jeffrey, was assigned to the U.S, Embassy there. Serena is a wealthy athlete and a former Olympic skier. Bryah, the smartest and youngest, was born in Africa and is married to Colton. Winnie is a stunning British woman whose husband, Christien, is a former spy who now works at the British Embassy in Bern.

Serena has the girls flown to Switzerland in a private jet and then to Monte Carlo in a helicopter. She gives each of them an envelope containing 50,000 euros to spend gambling or on whatever they wanted. Serena’s husband, Simon, reserves them a spectacular suite in the Monte Carlo Beach Hotel. The women visit Le Grand Casino and gamble and drink. Serena loses thousands of euros and wins thousands back. The next day, they go to the hotel pool, and, predictably, attract plenty of male attention.

Serena, who is not faithful to her husband, is a thrill seeker. Abbie senses that something is “off” with Winnie’s marriage. Abbie’s husband, Jeffrey, is a stuffy diplomat who has cheated on her. What the four women at the pool don’t know is that their husbands are watching them with binoculars from a nearby balcony.

That night, the women go to a discotheque. Serena begins dancing with Luc, a Grand Prix driver, while Abbie meets a movie star named Damian Kodiak. They all drink champagne while dancing.

Meanwhile, Winnie is dancing with a wealthy Frenchman named Devo, and Bryah finds a musician named Francois. Their group reaches nine when a chubby American Damian knows, who happens to own a yacht, joins them. They all climb into a limo for more partying and then end up on the yacht, where the couples pair off. Abbie is in a drunken stupor that’s disturbed briefly when she hears gunshots before falling back asleep. When she awakens, all of the men from the previous night except the owner have left the yacht.

Then, suddenly, French soldiers armed with assault rifles storm the yacht. The girls are handcuffed, blindfolded and whisked into separate SUVs, herded aboard a plane and flown to an unknown location. The French police tell them nothing.

During questioning, Abbie realizes that the police think she is part of a terrorist group. She insists that they were four friends on a fun weekend, nothing more.

Then the interrogator, Durand, shows her photos of Devo shot to death. Abbie demands a lawyer and tells them that she is an American citizen. Durand retorts, “You are not in the United States. No phone calls. No husbands. No lawyers. Not until you confess.”

Abbie and her friends soon find out that the man they knew as was actually the president of France in disguise.

Abbie and her friends are put on trial in France for his assassination. And they learn that the French justice system is nothing like America’s.

The French public hates them, and the press has a field day with their notoriety as the “Monte Carlo Mistresses.”

The women plead not guilty but the court convicts them. Abbie and Winnie are sentenced to prison for life while Bryah and Serena each get 30 years.

The overcrowded French prison is horrifying. The guards give the women special torture treatments, especially Abbie, trying to get them to confess. Abbie soon figures out the only way she can get to the truth — to find out who framed them — is to escape. Extremely resourceful, she manages to break out to seek genuine justice.

Her escape sets the stage for a dramatic and surprising conclusion.  The four women who had been out for a good time in Monte Carlo might not be entirely innocent, but they’re not guilty of murder.

The story is another hit for James Patterson, who’s written numerous bestsellers. His co-author, David Ellis, has written seven novels.

In his day job, he is chief counsel to the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives.

Maggie Braun is a teacher at Manhattan High School.

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