Posts Tagged ‘Rebecca James’

This is going to be a “quick and dirty” post, which is what we print types always called stories we just bang out on deadline to get them over and done with. I have no deadlines, but I’ve been meaning to write about these three books from first-time crime novelists for awhile, and so before I forget any more about them, here goes.

Beautiful Malice by Australian Rebecca James hooks you with the first line “I didn’t go to Alice’s funeral.” Very soon narrator Katherine Patterson flashes back to tell of being the new girl her last year of high school and how she was oddly befriended by beautiful, popular Alice Parrie. Oddly, because Katherine is a 17-year-old loner with dark family secrets. James reveals Katherine’s self-erased past on a teasing, need-to-know basis as she becomes close to Alice and to good-hearted Robbie, who loves Alice more than she loves him.  Alice, a charming narcissist, also has secrets, and the tension builds until Katherine and Robbie begin to discern that Alice’s agenda is not in their best interests. The twisting narrative offers several surprises, although the ending feels contrived. Still, James’ writing is smoothly seductive, and her depiction of emotionally charged teens searching for self and love is spot on.

John Verdon’s Think of a Number is a slick, tricky thriller that manages to overcome assorted cliches — taunting, letter-writing serial killer who leaves puzzling clues; reluctant, moody detective with lovely wife and tragic past; oddball victims seemingly chosen at random. Dave Gurney is the retired NYPD cop brought in to consult on the case of an apparently clairvoyant murderer who knows victims’ secrets. Gurney carefully begins to connect the dots — or add up the numbers — and Verdon keeps things moving at a nifty pace. Even if you think you know where it’s all headed, well, you might, but still a diverting trip.

Still Missing by Chevy Stevens is a harrowing, disturbing novel that’s almost as hard to read as it is to put down. In a series of profanity-laden sessions with her psychiatrist, real-estate Annie O’Sullivan spills her guts, relating how she was abducted from an open house and forced to “play house” with a stranger in an isolated mountain cabin for almost a year. Readers know Annie survived her ordeal with “the Freak,” but not how. In between ruminations on her new “old” life — the reactions of family, friends, her boyfriend, people who never knew her but think they “know” her now — she confesses the shocking details: “I did a lot of things on the mountain, a lot of things I didn’t want to do and a lot of things I didn’t want to believe I was capable of doing.”  She may be home now, but as the title acknowledges, she’s been changed forever. 

Open Book: I bought a hardcover edition of Rebecca James’ Beautiful Malice (Bantam) because I thought it sounded like a keeper. Not so much. The same for the advance reading copies of John Verdon’s Think of a Number (Crown) and Chevy Stevens’  Still Missing (St. Martin’s Press), both of which I received from their publishers as part of a web promotion. New homes await them.

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