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Friday, November 1, 2019

What I'm Reading: Dead to Her by Pinborough

Dead to Her.

Pinborough, Sarah (author).
Feb. 2020. 400p. Morrow, $27.99 (9780062856821)
First published November 1, 2019 (Booklist).

Star Review

Pinborough [Cross Her Heart, Behind Her Eyes], returns with her third domestic thriller, this time setting the action in the enticing world of the uber rich denizens of picturesque Savannah, GA. Marcie became Jason’s young second wife after a torrid affair, and has settled in as a member of their old money world of parties, charity work, and gossip, but she has a past that will never allow her to truly belong. Then their fairly predictable world is upended when William, Jason’s partner and the social group’s patriarch brings home an even younger wife, Keisha, from his trip to England, shaking loose a web of secrets that had been deeply hidden, evil lurking just under the surface, with dangerous lies harbored by all, and putting a plan of well calculated destruction into motion. Narrated in turns by Keisha and Marcie, both women the reader is leery to trust, even as they seduce us, this is a tightly wound thriller, that just keeps constricting, its characters, the plot, and the reader, until it all feels about ready to burst, and then, somehow, the narrative grip is squeezed even more. This is a fun, fast read but don’t let Pinborough lull you into complacency with the soapy drama, illicit love affairs, tension as stifling as the Georgia summer heat, and an unsettlingly touch of supernatural influence because every character and every detail will matter when the inevitable twist comes crashing down upon everyone, readers included. With Dead to Her, Pinborough is planting her flag, confidently surpassing her rivals in the genre, and, like her seductively sinister characters, she doesn’t appear to be willing to cede her position anytime soon. This is an absorbing tale that will satisfy and even surprise fans of Jennifer McMahon and Gillian Flynn

Further Appeal: I linked to my other reviews of Pinborough's recent novels in the review above. She is killing it [pun intended] at her domestic suspense titles, of which this is the third. Unlike some of the authors who are popular in this trendy genre right now, Pinborough goes deeper, in every way. Her characters are more developed, her plots more tightly wound, her twists, shocking but believable.

In Dead to Her the setting adds so much to the story. The stifling GA heat adds a layer of tension, plus Keihsa as a fish out of water in so many ways [she is very young, British, poor, and black], and Marcie is such a seductive narrator.

Also, the peek into the lives of the uber rich was not stereotypical in any way. Pinborough uses the two women who came from outside of that world as the eyes of the story, but this is not a "lifestyles of the rich and famous" type story in anyway. She is not writing to expose these people as evil for being rich; in fact, that is far from the truth at all.

The overall tone is extremely sinister, not just shocking or unsettling. Pinborough is not afraid to make women the center of her novels and that means they can be very evil. No one here is an innocent by stander and no man is going to be a worse villain or conversely save any of the women. Women drive all sides of the plot and the men are just there as their pawns or to move the narrative along And yet, she writes in a way that draws in readers of all genders.

This book got a star because she built it up perfectly. I was not considering a star as I was reading it, but the final third made the entire book pay off. Pinborough technically and emotionally created a perfect reading experience. This will be a great psychological suspense to hand out this winter and for years to come.

Three Words That Describe This Book: unreliable narrators, tightly wound, sinister

Readalikes: Pinborough would make Shirley Jackson proud. Her last three novels feature women, some of whom are quite evil, and all of whom don't allow men to control their lives.

The two writers I mentioned above are most like Pinborough, but if you are willing to read stories of women that are a little more sinister in overall tone but just as well constructed, try up and comer Damien Angelica Walters. She rights lyrical yet terrifying tales of strong women. Her biggest title to date is coming out in December, The Dead Girls Club [Crooked Lane Books which is distributed by PRH]. Preorder it now if you haven't; it got an excellent review in Booklist also. I would highly suggest you try her collection, Cry Your Way Home while you wait for the new novel [click here for my review]. Walters is a name you and your patrons will come to know very soon and pairing her with fans of Pinborough, Flynn, and McMahon [of which you have many] is a great way to book talk her to new readers.

Finally, one of my favorite books of last year and a title that made many best debuts lists and even won the Bram Stoker for Best First Novel, The Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste, is also a great readalike here.

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