Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Review of Die a Little by Megan Abbott (Pocket Books, 2005)

In 1950s Los Angeles, school teacher, Lora King, is living with her brother, Bill, an investigator for the DA’s office when Alice Steele, a studio seamstress, breezes into his life.  A short time later, Bill and Alice are married after a whirlwind romance.  Alice quickly settles into her new life as a housewife, endlessly baking and organizing social parties.  Lora, however, senses that there is more to Alice’s past than meets the eye and finds herself becoming suspicious of her stories.  Gradually she starts to investigate elements of her sister-in-law’s history, slowly becoming acquainted with Hollywood’s underbelly.  But the more she digs, the more she risks her own safety and Bill’s job and happiness.

Die a Little is a thoroughly noir tale about the tension between two femme fatales - a sister and wife - battling over the same man.  The main strengths of the novel are the atmosphere, tight plotting, strong characterisation, and crafted prose.  Abbott captures both the hopes of post-war US and its seedy underbelly of vice, drugs, and exploitation, filtered through a darkly tinted lens.  The plot is layered and nicely paced as Lora transitions across the arc of the story as her relationship with her sister-in-law comes under increasing strain.  All three main characters are well penned, being complex and deep, the support cast are more than simply ciphers for the story, and the interactions between the players is nicely portrayed.  The story is told through lyrical, literary prose that adds to the atmosphere.  Overall, an enjoyable noir tale that adds a distinctive voice to the genre.

5 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

So happy you liked it, Rob. And hope you are enjoying L.A.

Rob Kitchin said...

My favourite of Megan's books so far. LA going okay.

col2910 said...

Spooky timing - I was only thinking about this book the other day. It's been sat on the pile for 4 or 5 years now, it might be time to crack it open

Paul D. Brazill said...

That's a smashing book. Since I started watching Southland, LA scares me!

Yves Fey said...

One of my all time favorite books. Dark, lyrical, and twisted.