Shadow-dodging through the glamorous world of 1950s Hollywood and its seedy flip side, Megan Abbott's debut, Die a Little, is a gem of the darkest hue. This ingenious twist on a classic noir tale tells the story of Lora King, a schoolteacher, and her brother Bill, a junior investigator with the district attorney's office. Lora's comfortable, suburban life is jarringly disrupted when Bill falls in love with a mysterious young woman named Alice Steele, a Hollywood wardrobe assistant with a murky past.
Made sisters by marriage but not by choice, the bond between Lora and Alice is marred by envy and mistrust. Spurred on by inconsistencies in Alice's personal history and possibly jealous of Alice's hold on her brother, Lora finds herself lured into the dark alleys and mean streets of seamy Los Angeles. Assuming the role of amateur detective, she uncovers a shadowy world of drugs, prostitution, and ultimately, murder.
Lora's fascination with Alice's "sins" increases in direct proportion to the escalation of her own relationship with Mike Standish, a charmingly amoral press agent who appears to know more about his old friend Alice than he reveals. The deeper Lora digs to uncover Alice's secrets, the more her own life begins to resemble Alice's sinister past, and present.
©2005 Megan Abbott; (P)2005 Tantor Media, Inc.
"Abbott...crafts a stylish, sensuous tale with picture-perfect period trappings. "(Publishers Weekly)
"She does nail a similarly hushed and lurid tone in a tale that smolders like the night's last, forgotten cigarette." (Booklist)
I had really high hopes for this book. I'm a fan of film noir, and it seemed as if this would fit right into the genre. However, it turned out to be "noir lite."
The story was jumpy and often confusing. I found that I had to keep rewinding to figure out what I had missed. The narrator gave us glimpses of herself, but mostly it came off as hypocritical--the good girl who condemns her sis-in-law for her behavior, all the while apparently not being the "nice girl" she'd have everyone to believe she was. Also, the relationship between the narrator and her brother came off as a little seedy, if not quite incestuous. Plot devices were entirely dropped/never resolved, and at least one character shows up as a minor one to begin with and then has a larger part later on--for no good reason. Some things were explained in too much detail, and some were completely glossed over, leaving you to wonder how/why/when that had happened.
Technically, the book wasn't edited well at all. There were multiple repeated lines, and at one point, the studio engineer could be heard cueing the recording! Very distracting, to say the least.
I gave the book two stars solely because it wasn't the worst thing I've ever listened to. Nonetheless, it was, by far, not the best either.
Not sure what to make of this. For a six hour story it took a long time getting started. It then built rather slowly to an interesting conclusion; but I can't say for certain what message it was trying to convey. The characters were colorful but seemed a little implausible; more like motion picture caricatures than real people. Finally, for a book that moved slowly, dramatic twists, near the end, seemed to happen too fast.
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