July 11, 2011

Dark, delicious tale of obsession

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Beauty, obsession and identity are at the heart of Brandi Lynn Ryder’s accomplished and darkly sensuous debut, In Malice, Quite Close. At once a murder mystery, a vivid exploration of the art world and a meditation on the secrets we keep, Ryder’s novel is unlike anything else you will read this summer.

The moment Tristan Mourault, a wealthy, charming 34-year-old French ex-pat in San Francisco, casts his eyes on Karen Miller, an alluring local 15-year-old with a troubled home life, he decides he must have her for his own. Tristan urges Karen to run away with him, offering her a life of promise and luxury; when Karen can’t imagine leaving her beloved little sister Mandy, Tristan makes that decision for her by staging her death and fleeing with his new “acquisition.”

Karen is born anew as Gisèle Mourault, on paper Tristan’s daughter, but in reality something entirely different. Settling into domestic life, they begin to play a sinister game of cat and mouse, manipulating and supporting each other in equal measure. Their unique relationship seems to satisfy them—albeit in very different ways—until Gisèle’s young daughter, Nicola, finds a collection of secret paintings, and the web of lies her mother and “Grand-père” Tristan have created begins to unravel. Then Gisèle turns up dead in her swimming pool, while a young woman arrives claiming that Gisèle just may be her long-lost sister.

In Malice, Quite Close is a triumph. Ryder’s writing is as gorgeous as the many works of art she describes, and her characters—especially the twisted Tristan and tortured Gisèle—seem to leap right off the page. The novel’s many mysteries unfold carefully and beautifully, and readers will be trying to connect the dots until the very last page.

Read an interview with Brandi Lynn Ryder about In Malice, Quite Close.

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