SECRET SMILE by Nicci French


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Another beautiful heroine beset by another Iago in French’s underimagined latest.

But they do meet cute—at a skating rink where both do a lot of amiable falling down. She likes him (“His hair is glossy black like a raven’s wing”), and yet when he asks for her phone number, Miranda Cotton experiences “a moment of reluctance.” Readers who know their way around this author’s oeuvre will experience a moment of foreshadowing and will mark Brendan Block as a black-hearted sicko. Briefly, the two become lovers, though the affair ends when Miranda comes home from work to find Brandon making free with her London flat—and, more importantly, with her very private diary. She bounces him, but Brendan, of course, doesn’t take kindly to rejection and sets about implementing a pattern of vengeful behavior. In short order, he bewitches Miranda’s sister, dazzles her parents, and has a devastating effect on her young brother’s delicate psyche. Desperate, Miranda seeks help, but so seductively charming is Brendan that no one will believe him capable of the villainy she describes—not her family, not the lover who succeeds Brendan, not her best friend (who pays a bitter price for skepticism), and not the feckless police (“I’m not very interested in patterns,” says one cloddish cop). Relentlessly, Brendan battens on Miranda’s misery, piling up a pitiless string of victories in the cat-and-mouse game he refuses to end, until, at last—as you knew she must—Miranda finds the right fellow sufferer, a woman as angry as she is, to join her in an alliance that can cut the cat down to size.

A stumble: even her dependably crisp prose turns slipshod as, after three notably successful ventures (Land of the Living, 2003, etc.), French’s elegant creepiness goes formulaic.

Pub Date: June 22nd, 2004
ISBN: 0-446-53347-5
Page count: 320pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2004


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