A novel should stir the emotions, and Tangerine, the debut novel from Christine Mangan, does just that. It made this reviewer boiling mad. And that’s a good thing.
A reader could be forgiven for imagining Tangerine as a Patricia Highsmith spinoff—Mr. Ripley Goes to Morocco. Its villain is a psychopath who would give Tom Ripley—not to mention Hannibal Lecter—pause. Why, Ripley even rhymes with one of the protagonists’ names: Alice Shipley. The other protagonist is her former Bennington roommate, Lucy Mason, who’s shown up out of the Mediterranean blue on the doorstep of Alice and her husband’s home. It is best not to spoil the story and reveal the identity of the baddie. Is it Alice’s miserable, sexist, condescending, unfaithful husband, John? Or is it Joseph, an oily grifter who meets Lucy when she first arrives in Tangier? Is it Alice? Is it Lucy? Is it Alice’s rich, chilly aunt?
At first, Lucy earns some sympathy after she barges in on Alice and John like Blanche DuBois; she is sure to suffer the same fate, since John is such a creep. Then it seems that Joseph has sinister intentions he’ll inevitably act on. Mangan keeps readers guessing for a surprisingly long time, but as the story goes on, it appears the truth was hiding in plain sight. The ending will send you back to the beginning to pick up on all the clues you missed.
Speaking of the book’s ending and my ensuing anger, be warned: There is not even a hint of justice prevailing. The miscreant isn’t all that smart or talented, but is simply ruthless in the way of a cold-blooded reptile or politician. Readers will hope that Mangan, like Highsmith, writes a series of books about this villain, if for no other reason than to see whether the lowlife gets his or her comeuppance or slips away one more time.