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Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James

Beautiful Malice is the first novel for Rebecca James, who lives in Australia.  It wasn't until I was about halfway through the book that I realized that while the author is Australian, the book takes place in the United States.  I suppose I let the confusion of place setting bother me more that it really should have.  Ultimately, it took a lot longer to read this book than it normally would have (I was reading another one: thank you Food For The Dead) and also if I'm honest, I was afraid.  You can tell right from the first lines that something bad--really bad--is going to happen to the narrator, and knowing this wasn't conducive to reading.  It's like if I don't read it--it's not gonna happen to the characters and they'll be just fine!  Yes.  I know the characters aren't real people, but sometimes they feel real.

From the very beginning of the very first lines, one feels as if they are on a one way trip on a speeding train that is quickly picking up even more speed on its way to a fiery and spectacular wreck--and, as they say, it's hard to rip one's eyes away from a train wreck.  One knows this cannot end well for a narrator who has already survived what no one should have to survive.

The narrative unfolds in three alternating parts: there are the chapters that recount the events that take place in the present of the novel; these are interspersed between chapters that recount the events and months leading up to the emotional train wreck that takes place at least four years in the past.  These chapters are also interspersed with those that tell the story of the family tragedy that occurred several years before that and that set the stage for the emotional train wreck that occurred four years in the past.

Katherine's a young, single mother now and she's trying to raise a little girl without letting the grief, sorrow and tragedy that defines her also define and stain her little girl's life.  Years after her sister, Rachel's, murder Katherine moves to the city, changes her name and is determined to remain as anonymous as possible in order to finish high school.  She's vowed to keep to herself, to keep her secrets even closer and to maintain a solitary existence at school.  Instead beautiful, popular Alice singles out Katherine to befriend.  Soon Alice introduces Katherine to Robbie, Alice's maltreated boyfriend, who loves Alice despite the toxicity of their relationship.  The three become a tight and inseparable trio.  Under Alice's magnetic, charming, kind and generous exterior there are disturbing cracks in the perfect facade she presents to the world.  The fissures in Alice's personality run deep and dark and hide the disturbing and devastating secrets that she keeps from her friends.  Too late Katherine realizes that Alice's shiny magnetism hides cruel narcissistic and cold streaks that run deep and manifest themselves in brutal acts of cruelty, selfishness, infidelity and other betrayals that threaten both Robbie and Katherine.  Robbie knows well Alice's moods and tendencies but he loves her and is willing to endure them if it means Alice will remain in his life, but Katherine, still vulnerable in the wake of her sister's murder, is only beginning to learn just what Alice is capable of.

Katherine's story of her sister's murder--the event that changed her forever right down to the very fiber of her being--is breathtaking and heart-pounding in its terror.  The terror, the darkness, and the uncertainty of what's to come for her and her sister that night is vividly portrayed just as the dark twistedness of what Alice has planned for Katherine permeates each chapter of the novel.  And when Alice's own secrets and her endgame are finally laid bare, it is devastating, brutal, insane, and diabolical.

I highly recommend you try this novel.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


Kate said…
If you paid attention and read the novel, you'd notice it is set in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

Not the USA. May want to get your facts right.

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