Friday, February 24, 2012

The Face Thief by Eli Gottlieb — 256 pgs

When Margot decides to give up her humdrum life as a slave to the rat race to become a polished and silver-tongued grifter, she starts small, taking advantage of her alcoholic father’s confusion in order to siphon his funds into her nearly depleted savings account. Before long, Margot is venturing into more dangerous waters, and when she begins to study face and body reading in order to perfect her art, she stumbles across Lawrence Billings, a man who can teach her everything she needs to know. But Margot is a busy little bee, and while manipulating Lawrence, she’s also out to swindle a few bigger fish, who won’t take her trespasses lightly. As Margot comes closer and closer to the precipice, her targets also begin to edge closer and closer to the truth, which might be fatal for her. Now, with Margot becoming the victim of serious crime, she may manage to escape scot-free, but her precarious situation doesn’t stop her from ensnaring a few more targets, including the ultimate prize, which will have repercussions more severe than anyone could have imagined. Floating between three points in time, this is the story of a girl who can and does become anyone, and the disasters that she creates as she stumbles forward taking down everything in her path.

After reading a few very positive reviews of this book, I was intrigued enough to seek it out for myself. Eli Gotliebb is a new name to me, but it seems that his work has been lauded by many, and I have to agree that this was a book that was hard to put down. The expertly crafted language was not only evocative and rich, but the story that Gotliebb told wiggled its way into my brain where it burrowed and squirmed, full of portent and and suspense. It was an uncomfortable book to read, but it was alarmingly powerful and urgent as well.

Gotliebb doesn’t waste a lot of time trying to seduce his readers into falling in love with Margot. It’s clear from the outset that she is one bad egg and that her desire to come out on top will propel her into abuse of privilege, exotic acts of manipulation and wild treacheries that know no bounds. At first, I was skeptical of Margot’s situation, as she seemed so reduced and powerless, but like a snake in the grass, it was only her attempts to gather herself before the final strike. Gotliebb does an amazing job of making everything about Margot and her past murky and shadowed, and as he doles out the information, slowly but surely I began to see what a tremendous force this woman actually was. Her ability to feed off of the emotions of others and compose herself into whatever they wished her to be was stunning and more than a little scary.

When Margot gets involved with Lawrence, her motives seem to be those of a student sitting at the feet of a master, but this isn’t all Margot wants. She is incapable of letting anyone walk away from her undamaged, and in Lawrence’s struggle with his powerful attraction to Margot, he unwillingly lets out his inner demons who not only torment him but take him hostage into a dark vortex of self deception and regret. Though Lawrence has traveled this road before, he cannot admit to anyone the power that Margot holds over him, and in her grip, he becomes a man devoid of self-control and perspective. Margot holds the keys to Lawrence’s destruction, and in her eyes, Lawrence sees reflections of the man he used to be, reflections that disturb and anger him into shame.

Margot has been playing games with everyone, it seems, for she has also swindled John Potash, a man who is living a dream of self sufficiency and wealth beyond his wildest imaginings. When Margot gets her hooks into John, she squeezes mightily and leaves him broken and spent, in more ways than one. But Potash isn’t about to give up and let Margot win. In an effort to replenish his fortune and get revenge on Margot, he becomes willing to compromise himself in a myriad of ways. His feelings of overwhelming anger and bitterness at Margot are bolstered by a nefarious plan that shapes the future destruction of not only his savings but his family as well. In these three intertwining stories of Margot’s various deceptions, Gotliebb ensnares his readers with sinewy narrative strength and reveals flashes of expertly crafted suspense. Dark desires and their swift repercussions race each other throughout this novel, and in its conclusion, readers will find themselves chilled and justifiably ensnared.

This book was brilliant in its intensity and power, and I dare say that anyone who reads this story will come away with feelings of an intense measure. If you’re looking for a suspense novel that is unique yet powerfully captivating and thrilling, you need look no further. An unquestionable success in the genre and a very dark look at the power of perception versus reality. Highly recommended.

26 comments:

Harvee said...

Glad you liked this one too, Z. It was a most unusual suspense novel, I agree.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I don't think I could spend time with Margot!

Mrs Q Book Addict said...

I'm not sure if this one is for me. I don't read a lot of suspense novels. Great review!

Steph said...

Ooooh, this one sounds really good! I can't remember the last suspense novel I read that truly thrilled me (and not just because I have hardly been reading at all!). I really like it when authors are brave enough to center a story around morally bleak characters, and this one sounds really fascinating. I'll have to keep this one in mind for whenever my reading slump is over... Great review!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Hmmm. Well, it sounds intense, but when a character takes advantage of others and leaves them destitute, it makes my stomach hurt. I hate it when good people are hurt! I'm not sure if I would love this or not!

Jenners said...

Ooohhh…sounds good. Sometimes it is fun to read about a villain like this!

bermudaonion said...

Holy cow, that sounds very intense! Margot sounds like someone I would love to hate.

Amy said...

Wow, I wasn't planning on reading this one, but now maybe I will!

Ti said...

I know people like Margot in real life. For that reason alone, I probably won't read it, but it does sound really intense.

nomadreader said...

Oh, wow! I don't think I realized exactly what this novel was about. It sounds fascinating! I'm definitely going to make time for this one. Thanks!

Amy said...

I'm thinking Margot and Tom Ripley should meet. They'll either fall madly in love or kill each other.

I'm very intrigued by this book and cusious about Margot. Was she a straight-shooter while in the Rat Race or has she always been shifty?
It sounds as if she taked to grifting like a duck to water and has no compassion for her victims. I was shocked when you said her father was her first victim. Of course, he may have deserved it. I was further intrigued by Margot having the nerve to go after Lawrence the man who teaches herr so much. I guess with Margot anyone and everyone is fair game. I'll be amazed if she lives very long!

I enjoyed the suspenseful atmosphere of The Talented Mr. Ripley and this book sounds even more suspenseful. Your review is fantastic Heather and I'm actually considering going out to pick up this book tomorrow!

Suko said...

Wow! This does sound alarmingly powerful! Excellent review, Zibilee, of what seems to be a very affecting book.

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

I think I could only read this if I had some idea that Margot was gonna get hers in the end.

Darlyn (Your Move, Dickens) said...

A cunning female character. I love the premise of this book, and hope I can get my hands on a copy soon.

Jenny said...

This sounds fascinating! Although I'd feel really bad for the other characters, I'm also interested in how she manipulates them. I hope the ending is full of her getting what she deserves though, LOL!

Darlene said...

Wow, this one sounds intense. I haven't heard of this book or author but I'll ne checking into this one for sure now.

Marie said...

What an endorsement! you 've made me want to run out and get it right now.

Kailana said...

Sounds good! Great review!

Stacy at A Novel Source said...

I love suspense novels and this one definitely sounds like a unique take on the thrill. What a concept...and Margot sounds like a tornado, ripping apart everything in her path...scary!!!

Wendy said...

Okay, you've convinced me I have to read this one. I got it unsolicited and was thinking I would pass on it, but now I have to crack the spine! Terrific review (as usual), Heather!!

Nymeth said...

I love your enthusiasm! This definitely sounds very intense.

TheBookGirl said...

I never know how to evaluate unsettling books like this one -- on the one hand, I don't particularly enjoy squiriming when I read, but on the other hand, it's like that adage about not being able to look away from a traffic accident -- I can't seem to put these kind of books down. I have to think about this one a little more. Great review today Heather!

Melanie said...

Revenge always makes books more interesting. This sounds powerful!

Anita said...

This one has caught my eye more than once, but I'm not sure I'd enjoy it. Wonderful review Heather!!

Aths said...

So glad that you loved this! My ecopy expired halfway through, so now I am waiting for this one from the library again.

Luxembourg said...

Well... it could have been better
I was looking forward to reading a book about deceit based on reading body language- I thought I was going to love this novel, but try as I might I just could not. It seemed to have a promising start, but the middle and end to this book really were lacking.

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