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Wednesday 27 March 2019

‘Envy’ by Amanda Robson

Published by Avon,
21 March 2019.
ISBN: 978-0-00-829187-7 (PB)

It was the children I felt sorry for, caught in a mesh of destructive emotions created by the very adults who are supposed to protect them. Amanda Robson shows the same level of skill at bringing them to life as she does with her dysfunctional grown-ups.

Her previous novels have been set against a background of apparently ordinary middle-class life, and Envy is no exception. All her main characters get to put their own side of the story across; some are slightly unbalanced to start with, others are pushed to the edge by events. And the supporting players get the same care and attention as the central ones, especially Mimi, the ageing punk rocker who runs a modelling agency, and Mouse, who is somewhere on the higher-functioning end of the autistic spectrum, though it's never spelled out.

Faye and Phillip have a straightforward happy marriage; they live in suburbia with their two small daughters, Phillip is something high-powered in marketing, and Faye, a former beauty queen, is trying to forge a career as a model. On the edge of their apparently perfect life are Jonah, Phillip's handsome and sophisticated best friend, and Erica, unattractive and low in self-esteem, who covets Faye's life and finds ways to track her every move.

And that's how the nightmare downward spiral begins: with covetousness. Not only does Erica want Faye's life; Jonah wants Faye and is prepared to go to any lengths to steal her from Phillip.

In this kind of domestic noir, the characters come first, second and just about every place in the line. Amanda Robson's distinctive first-person, alternating-viewpoint, jump-cutting style is faultless; the reader is never in doubt whose slice of story is being told, even when one picks up where the last stopped. The result is four classic unreliable narrators who create a maelstrom of corrosive cross-currents. It's clear from the start that it's all going to end in tears; and inevitably, because this is thriller fiction, there's blood as well. But it doesn't work out quite as you'd expect...

That jump-cutting is put to adept use as a way of creating tension as well as bringing those characters to life. Some chapters are only a few lines long, and the temptation to read just one more (then just another one, and another, and so on) kept me reading late into the night.

'Unputdownable' says a splash on the cover. It's spot on.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

After graduating, Amanda Robson worked in medical research at The London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine, and at the Poison’s Unit at Guy’s hospital where she became a co-author of a book on cyanide poisoning.  This set her in good stead for writing her debut novel, Obsession, a dark and twisted tale about love affairs gone wrong. Amanda attended the Faber Academy writing course in 2011, and now writes from home full time. She lives in London and Wales, with her lawyer husband.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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