In Malice, Quite Close by Brandi Lynn Ryder.*
Tristan Leandre Jourdain Mourault III is a wealthy, aristocratic French ex-patriot. Although his property in France is filled with original Impressionist masterpieces, Tristan says that "he prefers his art living". He spends most of his time in New York City, but we first meet him in San Francisco. He spots Karen Miller on Fisherman's Wharf. Not quite fifteen, she strikes him as incredibly beautiful, and something he'd like to acquire.
He slowly becomes acquainted with her; she finds him both alien and alluring. Coming from a family supported by her mother, her father an unemployed alcoholic, Karen is entranced by the handsome older man who lives at the Ritz-Carlton and has had his car shipped from New York because he "can't bear a rental car", and they begin a clandestine friendship.
After a few weeks, he persuades her to run off with him. Although she accompanies him willingly, it is, for all intents and purposes, an abduction. Telling people she's his daughter, he calls her Gisèle and they eventually settle in the fictional town of Devon, Washington. Lolita-esque, yes, but the similarities end here.
The remainder of the story could be described as mystery or suspense. The reader is faced with so many questions: Are Gisèle and Karen really the same person? What happened to Karen's family? Does Gisèle love Tristan? What is the true identity of enigmatic artist Robin Dresden?
Brandi Lynn Ryder begins the story writing in the first person from Tristan's point of view, in a style reminiscent of an earlier century. Tristan tells us only as much as he wants, and we are continually certain that he is holding something back. She somehow manages to make Tristan's words lush and descriptive yet at the same time cryptic. None of the characters are who they appear to be, or are they?
Ms. Ryder's prose is masterful and compelling. The reader sinks so deeply into the story that it's difficult to return to reality. This book is ideal for discussion groups to sink their proverbial teeth into. (There is a reader's guide with discussion questions and an author interview on the Penguin website.)
*FTC Full Disclosure: Many thanks to the publisher, who sent me a copy of the book for review purposes.