A contemporary reimagining of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita with a Fatal Attraction twist, Nappi’s latest (Sophomore Campaign, 2012, etc.) is a fast-paced thriller.
Cameron Baldridge—a young, handsome high school English teacher—seemingly has it all: a job that he loves, students who adore him and a beautiful, successful soon-to-be fiancée. But underneath the perfect facade is a deeply scarred man still trying to come to grips with the tragic death of his first love so many years earlier. He pines for an attractive student named Nikki (described fittingly as “Nabokov’s nymphet”), succumbs to her wild sexuality and ultimately tastes the “forbidden fruit”—with disastrous consequences. Shortly after secretly meeting Nikki in a hotel room, she collapses and dies. Baldridge panics, flees the scene, and believing that he got away unseen, continues on with his life. But when he receives a text from Nikki’s phone, he realizes that someone else knows exactly what he did. The story’s pacing is brisk, the narrative generally fluid and the conclusion an absolute jaw-dropper, but three faults make this potentially excellent thriller a more pedestrian read. The story wields several contrived plot twists; for example, a computer virus happens to wipe out Nikki’s cell phone records. The frequent, clunky changes of perspective, although understandable, continually distract. And the unlikable main characters, Cameron and Hayley, sabotage the narrative. Following their dysfunctional relationship, based on and nurtured by lies, drains emotional connection to the characters and power from the reading experience.
Fans of adrenaline-inducing storylines and bombshell plot twists should read this flawed thriller for the conclusion alone.