Note, the format of my Short and Sweet reviews differs in that they simply comprise the book blurb and a short response (hence, the short and sweet).
Marketing hype has L.S. Hilton pegged as the next E.L. James. Her upcoming book Maestra, described as a “racy thriller” is currently in the midst of a big marketing push. Does it live up to the hype? Here’s the blurb:
Sex. Murder. Shoes. A shockingly original and darkly decadent thriller, Maestra is the launch title of Zaffre, the new fiction imprint of Bonnier Publishing Fiction.
Judith Rashleigh works as an assistant in a prestigious London auction house, but her dreams of breaking into the art world have been gradually dulled by the blunt forces of snobbery and corruption. To make ends meet she moonlights as a hostess in one of the West End’s less salubrious bars – although her work there pales against her activities on nights off.
When Judith stumbles across a conspiracy at her auction house, she is fired before she can expose the fraud. In desperation, she accepts an offer from one of the bar’s clients to accompany him to the French Riviera. But when an ill-advised attempt to slip him sedatives has momentous consequences, Judith finds herself fleeing for her life. Now alone and in danger, all Judith has to rely on is her consummate ability to fake it amongst the rich and famous – and the inside track on the hugely lucrative art fraud that triggered her dismissal.
Set in the exotic palaces and yachts of Europe’s seriously wealthy, Maestra is a shockingly original thriller. With a heroine as wickedly perceptive as Amy Dunne and as dangerous as Lisbeth Salander, this marks the beginning of a razor-sharp and meteoric sequence of novels that will have readers around the world on the edge of their seats and holding their breath.
Racy is somewhat of an understatement. Readers get a front seat view of of Judith’s unconventional sex life, complete with c-words and detailed descriptions that for me, were more off-putting than titillating. I did not feel comfortable in the part of voyeur; more someone who’d accidentally walked in on a peep show. There was a detachment to these scenes, which mirrored the detachment of Judith, the sociopathic, emotionally-deficient protagonist. I didn’t like her, didn’t care about her, and certainly didn’t want to be part of her sex life.
As a thriller, it’s got the jet-setting, conspiracy, race-against-time, chase elements that make thrillers so much fun to read. However, the storyline didn’t win me over – despite some shocking scenes (not all sex-related) it lacked tension and at times lagged. It tried too hard to shock. Comparisons to Gone Girl, The Talented Mr Ripley and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are unwarranted.
Definitely a make-up-your-own-mind book. This one wasn’t for me.
Available in March from good bookstores. My ARC was courtesy of Allen & Unwin.