Deceptively nuanced, and impossible to put down, this is escapism with substance.


A pair of college best friends—one born with everything; the other starting from nothing—become post-college rivals, intent on success no matter the cost.

Stella Bradley is rich and blonde and beautiful, a monied Manhattanite, irresponsible and razor-sharp. Violet Trapp is a hardworking kid from Florida with no money and no family support. Their connection is instant. “It wasn’t that my personality changed when I met Stella,” Violet reflects. “It was that it became….I didn’t just want the friendship of this dazzling girl. I wanted the world that had made her so dazzling in the first place.” Violet is determined to overcome her own roots; by studying the Bradleys, she imagines, she might become one of them. After college, Stella flits across the globe, and Violet, the “responsible one,” stays in New York—living in the Bradleys' apartment, intended for Stella—gets an internship in cable news, falls in love with the job, is promoted, and then is promoted again. She excels in production, behind the scenes, cultivating sources, engrossed in the work. When Stella returns, though, the relationship can’t quite pick up as before: Violet has an identity now, separate from Stella; the power between them has shifted. And then Stella pulls a few strings—family connections, natural charm—and begins encroaching on Violet’s new turf. She, too, gets a job at the network and begins climbing the ranks. And her newfound ambitions are not behind the scenes but in front of the camera, once again eclipsing Violet, restoring the balance between them: invisible, hardworking, talented Violet and Stella, the star. But this time, Violet is fighting back—by any means necessary. If the pivotal event of the book—and its sinister aftermath—seems slightly far-fetched given the relative grounding of the first two-thirds of the novel, who cares? It’s a trivial quibble given the sheer pleasure of reading this book. Pitoniak (The Futures, 2017) is an astute social observer, and the novel—a literary thriller about class aspiration and young female ambition—is a twisting delight with a haunting punch.

Deceptively nuanced, and impossible to put down, this is escapism with substance.

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-45170-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.


A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Why you double-crossing little double crossers! Fiendishly clever.


The daughter of a grifter plans to fund her mother’s cancer treatment with a revenge con.

Rich people suck, don’t they? Nina Ross found this out in her adolescence, when her romance with Benny Liebling was broken up by his status-obsessed, old-money father, who found them screwing in the guest cottage of the family’s Lake Tahoe estate. Back then, Nina had a future—but she’s since followed her con-artist mother into the family business with the help of a handsome blue-eyed Irish confederate named Lachlan. “Here’s my rule,” Nina tells him. “Only people who have too much, and only people who deserve it.” Of course, he agrees. “We take only what we need.” With her art history background, Nina is usually able to target a few expensive antiques they can lift without the rich dopes even noticing they’re gone. But now that Nina's mother is hovering at death’s door without health insurance, she’s going after the $1 million in cash Benny mentioned was in his father’s safe all those years ago. So back to Lake Tahoe it is. The older Lieblings are dead, and Benny’s in the bin, so it’s his sister Vanessa Liebling who is the target of the complicated caper. Vanessa is a terribly annoying character—“I couldn’t tell you how I went from a few dozen Instagram followers to a half-million. One day, you’re uploading photos of your dog wearing sunglasses; and the next you’re begin flown to Coachella on a private jet with four other social media It Girls…”—but, in fact, you’ll hate everyone in this book. That is surely Brown’s (Watch Me Disappear, 2017, etc.) intention as she’s the one making them natter on this way. She also makes them vomit much more than is normal, whether it’s because they’re poisoning each other or because they’re just so horrified by each other’s behavior. Definitely stay to see how it all turns out.

Why you double-crossing little double crossers! Fiendishly clever.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-47912-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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