This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.
I was thrilled to get a chance to read this because I've been a fan of this author (Emily Jenkins writing as E Lockhart) ever since I read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks which I really loved. That bought her a lot of good grace from me, but my results with her after that haven't been wholly positive. I did not like The Boyfriend List, and I detested We were Liars so much that I was moved to write a parody song about it as part of my review. It was titled "Purple Prose" and was based on the Prince song, Purple Rain! On the other hand, I really liked Dramarama so she was batting a .500 going into this.
This novel started out great and had me really hooked on this intriguing young woman who was strong, wealthy, and evidently hiding out from someone. When she fears she's been discovered, she acts decisively and leaves town, ruthlessly dealing with a guy from the hotel who is trying to extort money from her. The problem is that then it went into what appeared to be terminal flashback mode which frankly pissed me off. I detest flashbacks because they bring the story to a screeching halt while we get an info-dump. Not a good writing plan.
All I was getting was this boring history, which seemed irrelevant to the story I'd been reading - like it was a completely different novel. It was intended to explicate the beginning of the novel, but all it did was spoil it, and it was really confusing to me until I read some other reviews of the story and then it became clear that the tale was being told backwards! Sorry, but no.
Not only was it backwards, it was tediously mundane, and it felt like the Chinese water torture: this story was determined to punish me and it was going to take a mind-numbingly long time to do it. If the flashback material had been as gripping a the first chapter, that would have at least been something but the canvas this author was painting here wasn't a picture - it was merely a coat of gesso aimed at priming the surface, and I was not prepared to watch this pallid coat of paint dry.
Worse, I thought I knew already what was going on. I'm usually hopeless at figuring that out in a mystery novel, but in this case it seemed so obvious even to me. The main character is this girl named Jule, and she had a friend named Imogen who appeared to have killed herself, but no body was found which as you know means that the person ain't dead - or someone switched places with the victim. I left it to other readers to figure out which case this was. As for me, I couldn't have cared less by this point, which was about 60% in. The story was very short, but I have better things to do with my time than put myself through this kind of writing.
From some of those reviews I read, I also discovered that this was essentially the same story as Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley. I haven't read that novel, so i can;t comment, and it's not relevant to me because I was judging this on its own merits - or in this case lack of same, but other reviewers seemed pretty adamant that if you've read Highsmith's novel, you really don't need to read this one.
What's relevant to me is whether a story moves me and keeps me interested, and this one failed. Like I said, I loved the opening chapter but after that, as soon as we began exploring the past, I lost interest because there was nothing in it to interest me that could remotely compare with the quality of the writing in that first chapter.
If the past had been at all revelatory or exciting, it might have been different, but it really was not. It was so predictable that it was tedious to read. There were no surprises. Worse, I went from liking the main character and admiring her smarts and pluck to detesting her as a complete idiot. I wish the author all the best, but I cannot recommend this one.