In Malice, Quite Close by Brandi Lynn Ryder
Publication Date: August 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Pages: Hardcover, 400pp
(Received for an honest review from Viking)
Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound
Brandi Lynn Ryder on the WEB: website, facebook, twitter
Excerpt from In Malice, Quite Close
A HAUNTING AND SOPHISTICATED DEBUT IN WHICH PRICELESS ART AND UNSPEAKABLE DESIRES CONVERGE
When Tristan Mourault - expatriate aesthete and heir to a world-renowned collection of impressionist masterpieces - catches sight of young Karen Miller during a trip to San Francisco, he knows he must have her. Convincing himself that she deserves more than the frayed, middlebrow life she was born into, he sets in motion a campaign of flattery, enchantment, and romance that sweeps Karen off her feet. First, he stages her disappearance. Then, her transformation. Karen, the ordinary fifteen-year-old girl becomes Gisele - Tristan's daughter by day, his lover by night, and the crowning achievement of his lifelong quest for beauty and perfection.
Fifteen years later, Devon, Washington. Framed by glacial lakes and snow-capped mountains. Devon is a picturesque bohemia with a prospering art scene. Tristan and Gisele are the center of this elite, eccentric, and capricious world, and Gisele herself has matured into a sophisticated young woman. The desired object of many admirers, she is now also a devoted mother to her daughter, Nicola, and a distant wife to Luke, the man she married to keep up appearances. But the secrets that hold their life together are as ornate as the town's legendary architecture. When Nicola uncovers a cache of unsigned nude portraits - all of Gisele - Tristan's carefully curated world erupts, and tragedy unfolds.
An exploration into the origins of obsession and the beguiling power of art. In Malice, Quite Close tells the story of perilous greed and manipulation, drawing readers into a byzantine drama that keeps its darkest secrets until the very last page.
Author Brandi Lynn Ryder's debut novel, In Malice, Quite Close is an eerie tale of obsession and murder. Hauntingly reminiscent of Nabokov's Lolita, Ryder tells the coming-of-age story of a young woman coerced and manipulated into a world of opulence, yet essentially a prisoner in her own life. Ryder's descriptive prowess is exceptional and the level of suspense and tension in this book is riveting. This is a sophisticated novel that will leave each reader with their own interpretation of malice.
Karen Miller is a typical teenage girl from a dysfunctional family when she is spotted by a Frenchman with a penchant for beauty. Tristan Mourault has the money and the experience to change Karen's life, to take her away from her mundane existence. With flattery and seduction Tristan woos Karen. After drugging and kidnapping her, Tristan stages a crime scene that leads investigators and Karen's family to believe she's dead. He then transforms her into Gisele, the object of his obsession, the quintessential piece in his collection of beauty. Fifteen years later in a Devon, Washington art colony, Gisele and Tristan continue to live out his fantasy. She has been his daughter by day and lover by night, but now she has matured and come into her own. She has a beautiful daughter, Nicola and a pseudo-husband, to keep up appearances. But nothing is what it appears and tragedy is only a moment away.
Usually when I read a debut novel I attempt to give the author a little bit of grace. Often first novels are still raw and the readers can see the potential of what's to come, but not the finished product. In Malice, Quite Close is however, an exception to the rule. Brandi Lynn Ryder has crafted a novel that exceeds the bar for a first time writer. It is descriptive, intense and as the title suggests, it gives off an atmosphere that is both menacing and haunting. Readers will be captivated by the opulent world that Ryder describes and by her talent at characterization.
Each character in this novel has their own vices and agenda's where the main character Gisele is concerned but none more than Tristan. From the very beginning the reader will sense that Karen/Gisele is both beautiful and naive. She is taken in by Tristan's power and his money and is virtually unable to get away from him. Tristan's motivations are made quite clear by the author. He is infatuated with her to the point of obsession. He fantasizes about her constantly. Ryder writes Tristan almost like a tortured soul. He just can't seem to get her out of his mind. I think readers will won't look at him so much as a predator, or even as an evil man, but as someone who was unable to control his base urges. Ryder uses Tristan to allow readers to explore their own less than perfect appetites and how they control them.
Ryder's descriptions of not only her characters but her setting and the world of art are remarkable. When she talks about the artistic community of Devon, the reader is able to see the pristine setting in their minds eye with such clarity that they will be able to lose themselves in it's splendor. When Ryder begins to describe a set of paintings found by Gisele's daughter, she excels in such a way that readers will believe she had to be describing a painting she was looking at, but according to the author that isn't the case. These paintings were only in her mind and that leads the reader to believe that Ms. Ryder has a deep appreciation for art and the human form. This is also apparent in the cover design of the book, which is simply gorgeous.
The mystery aspect of the book, though a bit rambling at times, will have the readers on the edge of their seats. The tension and suspense evoked in this novel is unparalleled. If readers are looking for a real thriller that will keep them guessing through a series of twists and turns that would rival a maze, then this is most definitely the right choice. I don't want to give to much away, but suffice it to say, tragedy is in the making, and the world that Tristan has so carefully built around Gisele will fall in a dramatic way. Gisele's persona will begin to crumble and the secrets of her past will come to light.
I recommend this novel to readers who are looking for a sophisticated mystery. This is a book, that like art, has many interpretations. It will probably take on an entirely different meaning for everyone who reads it, so I can honestly recommend it to many different types of readers. It is haunting, disturbing, suspenseful and a very well written debut. Ryder is an author to watch in the future, if her debut was this good, I'm looking forward to what comes next!
In Malice, Quite Close is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
Brandi Lynn Ryder lives in the heart of the Napa Valley. In Malice, Quite Close, her first novel, was a finalist for the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.