“ Genre: Crime / Thriller / Author: Chris Niles / Paperback / 400 Pages / Book is published 2004-02-06 by Pan Books „
I was in holiday a few months ago when a lady who was staying at the same Hotel as me remarked that I was always reading. I was a little taken aback by this, telling her I loved books. After a while chatting about favourite authors, she told me she had just read this book at it was quite outstanding. Months down the track I finally got round to reading it and reviewing it.
==About the author:==
Although born in New Zealand Chris Niles has moved about so far in her life in places such as England, Australia and Hungary. These days she chooses to live and write in Brooklyn, USA. So far in her successful writing career she has published six novels within the mystery/thriller arena.
==Synopsis of the novel:==
Sophie Graham's life is waiting for something new and exciting to happen. She is working in a failing downtown bar in New York City. Even this looks precarious, as the manager needs to reduce his Waiting Staff's hours, as business is so slow. Sophie dreams of becoming an actress but is as many are between assignments, still waiting for her big break.
She is working on another quiet Friday afternoon when I girl she hated and despised at school the stunning and highly popular Electra Jordan strides into the bar with her father and new mother-in-law. Electra invites Sophie to join them, which she does but rather than tell the truth she tells them she is a Private Investigator. They leave shortly afterwards and Sophie hopes she will never see her again.
Months later Sophie gets a call fro Electra's father asking her to meet him at his home. He tells her his daughter has gone missing and no one knows where she is. He is willing to pay her handsomely and as she is broke she agrees to try. Is she biting of more than she can chew? As she knows virtually nothing about finding people, but she does want to try to see if she can put the ghosts of her school days to rest.
==My thoughts on the book:==
Overall I would say this was an enjoyable read. I found it quite easy to get into and I immediately found Sophie Graham a very down to earth, likeable character. I considered this to be a well thought out and constructed story as I always felt it was interesting and leading somewhere. With the idea that Sophie pretended that she was a successful Private Investigator and now she was going to try and learn how to be one.
This is another author that is completely new to me. As a result I was unsure about what to expect from her work. All I knew for sure was she had written six novels of which this is the fifth produced in 2004. So I felt she must have been doing something right as her work keep getting her work published.
When I was in the library recently I was searching for something by this author remembering the strong endorsement her work was given while I was on holiday and I found the very book this lady raved about. I picked this one because of that and the intriguing and very open title to it. However in retrospect I think this was a poor title for the book and the author should have used a little more thought and imagination in picking it.
I also had my misgivings about the cover of the book. It had five blonde Barbie dolls, all looking similar but wearing different clothes. I wondered if this was a clue that it would be quite a shallow superficial kind of read. But then I remembered the old saying not to judge a book by its cover, especially as additionally on the front cover there was a quote from a Scott Phillips (who I don't know) saying this author had a terrific style. I thought I better test this Scott Phillips to see if I agreed with him and see if he knew his onions.
The books summary however sounded quite promising. It led me to want to know more about Sophie her life and how she set about finding the missing girl. Again though I was worried because the book is set in America and quite often I struggle to relate some aspects of the American way of life and their culture, as I'm sure they do with ours.
Despite all my misgivings I started finally to read the book. And to my surprise I very quickly started to enjoy both the writers relaxed writing style and Sophie's less than glamorous lifestyle. I found it very amusing that her little fib about being a Private investigator came back to haunt her. The idea of her trying to find her old adversary I thought was an interesting concept, especially as Sophie was still dealing with issues from her old school days.
I liked the way with the advent of this investigation Sophie's life started to look rosier. She moved into Electra's flush apartment, met and enjoyed her friend's richer lifestyles and she got to borrow her stylish and expensive clothes. This all helped Sophie's confidence and I found this reassuring and quite realistic. As along the way she made mistakes and didn't think to do some things during the investigation until it was pointed out to her. I thought this was understand and made the story more plausible and honest.
The story was always interesting as there were plenty of colourful characters within it and you were never sure if Sophie would stumble upon the truth or somehow be presented with it. As there seemed on the face of it little reason why Electra would disappear, as she had it all, very attractive, more money than she knew what to do with and a large circle of friends with several male admirers.
I thought given this, the idea of her being kidnapped or abducted should have been given more consideration, as it was hardly suggested, but to me it seemed an obvious assumption for her in the story. Although I was impressed the way Sophie was so down to earth as to be manipulated by some of the characters within the plot. Who unknown to her had agenda's that she had no immediate way of knowing or understanding about.
As the story developed you picked up a sense about who the good and bad guys where. However you were only given snippets of information with all the rest needed to be found out. It was a fascinating story because it took a number of unusual and surprising turns, while the author was very good at creating mystery within it.
The story was also quite unusual for me because you were not just with Sophie as she investigated. You were also with some of the characters as they went about relevant meetings or associations. This approach did work but I would have preferred to have the story written just from Sophie's viewpoint and perspective as I enjoyed your thought process and some of the errors she made.
As the story unfolded so too did the pace of it increase, leading to a fast paced exciting conclusion. It was sadly a good well written final that from my point of view failed to deliver. As given the quality of what I had read I found it to be tame and quite straightforward. Maybe that's what you get when you have a first class story but the ending doesn't live up to your very high expectations.
That said the ending did make logical sense and was well thought out. And given what you knew you did understand why Electra disappeared, but not so much why she re-appeared again. At the same time I thought it demonstrated how Sophie had developed in stature and confidence throughout the novel, as she seemed to grow as a person given this unusual opportunity.
I thought the story was well told and for me it really showed that this region is the author's home. As she wrote about the city in a lot of depth, while understanding the people and the culture within its society. It made you believe that you were part of the scene and it certainly helped bring the story to life for me.
The only negative I felt about the author's writing was for me the characters were not described in enough detail. Yes some of these were unusual in their lifestyle and goals, but I would have liked greater emphasis on describing them as I had problems visualising situations they found themselves in as a result.
The novel's central character was Sophie. Who I found very easy to relate to most of the things about her. From her personality to her feeling out of her depth with what she was trying to do. I thought she was very well written for and a wonderful lead character. Also I enjoyed the idea that she was obsessed with finding the truth because of what had happened to her at the hands of this missing girl when they were at school.
She was well supported in this by some equally but for different reasons interesting characters. I however did struggle a little with who was who in Electra's school gang and who had done what to Sophie back then. But then that was part of their ethos to be similar and the most popular gang to be in at the school. So I don't really know what the author could have done to help the reader more. Maybe a chart somewhere in the book about the gang members might have helped then I could have referred to this when I got confused.
The suspense within the novel was well written and I liked the way it built steadily as the plot unfolded. I liked the sub-plots that centred on Sophie's love life and the troubled relationship she had with her father. But as the things developed Sophie learnt that things for other people are not always as good as they first appear on the surface. That everyone has his or her problems and no one has the perfect life that may look at first glance.
The length of the novel was about right to tell this fascinating and enjoyable story. There was no prologue or epilogue but I found this time they were not required. Although I did think there were too many chapters, as there was a new chapter every six or so pages, which was too often for me. As you had hardly got into the scene when it was coming to an end.
I think overall I would recommend this, as it was a very enjoyable and well-written story. For me I think my expectations became too high because of this and the ending what for me not to the same very high standard. This was my first experience of this author's work so I am very interested in trying something else from her in the near future.
Pages: 400 (Paperback)
Price: £6.99 (New at Amazon)
Publisher: Pan Books
Web site: www.fantasticfiction.com/n/chris-niles
Thank you for reading my review.
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
@CPTDANIELS January 2010