In Malice Quite Close by Brandi Lynn Ryder
Intriguing and unsettling are the best words to describe Brandi Lynn Ryder’s debut novel, In Malice, Quite Close. While it is undoubtedly a page turner, it’s also disquieting and I came away from it, not knowing whether to like it or not. It certainly kept me reading and that says something.
Tristan Leandre Jourdain Mourault III is a wealthy man of the world. He has inherited a priceless collection of Impressionist paintings; however he prefers his art living. The piece he most wants to procure is Karen Miller, a naïve 15-year-old girl from San Francisco. Tristan decides to rescue Karen from her sexually abusive father by staging her death and running off with her. After manipulating the young woman and breaking her will to escape, Tristan renames her Gisèle. They settle in New York as father and daughter—at least in the public eye.
Tristan soon becomes both predator and prey when a blackmailer sends photographs of him with Karen in San Francisco. They are forced to flee and relocate to the exclusive, idyllic artists’ community of Devon, Washington. All appears to be affluence and ease. Gisèle marries and has a daughter, Nicola, and it seems for many years as if Tristan will escape judgment. But one cannot live a lie forever, it seems. The man on whom he most depends to guard his past, the artist-philosopher Robin Dresden, is not trustworthy. At the same time, Karen’s long lost sister Amanda also appears on the scene, and both she and Nicola start asking prickly questions. A cache of nude paintings of Gisèle suddenly surfaces, and the web of suspicion grows ever more intricate: What is Gisèle’s real identity? Who is Nicola’s father? And who has painted the exquisite paintings which both reveal Gisèle and heighten the mystery that surrounds her? As the questions multiply, Tristan descends into the kind of desperation that can lead to murder.
While one can feel sorry for Gisèle, it is harder to feel sympathy for Tristan. Little Nicola is stuck where so many children often are, smack in the middle of all the chaos. There’s a feeling of incest about this book which makes it a little hard to swallow at times. Compelling, yes. Easy to read? Not always. There’s literally malice really close by.