Sunday, November 26, 2023

The Fiction Writer

The Fiction Writer by Jillian Cantor
11/28/23; 304 pages
Park Row Books

The Fiction Writer by Jillian Cantor is a recommended Gothic mystery set in California.

Olivia Fitzgerald's last book, Becky, based on Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca, was an adjunct failure so she is surprised when her agent calls to tell her that reclusive, handsome, mega-billionaire Henry (Ash) Asherwood wants to hire her for a writing job. The money is good so she flies to Malibu to meet with him and learn the details before signing an NDA. Ash claims that du Maurier actually stole his late grandmother's story. He has read her diary which was written in French before Rebecca was published and he wants Olivia to tell her story. Then it all gets rather dicey because he's not seriously discussing business or having his people get down to business.  Olivia "finds herself drawn into a tangled web of obsession, marital secrets, and stolen manuscripts."

Where this succeeds is as a Gothic mystery, based on Rebecca. Metatextuality is clearly on display when, interspersed between Olivia's chapters about her trip, are excerpts from a book titled The Wife, which seems to be another retelling of Rebecca. It all seems a bit too much, even if you appreciate the idea Cantor is pursuing.

This plot is very slow moving and requires all manner of suspension of disbelief almost immediately, especially since a compelling reason to keep reading past the thirty percent mark is missing.  Even if you need the money, most people would suspect something odd right away and make Ash discuss business, not his cooking abilities. Olivia is there to do a job and she needs the information to do so. Once it becomes clear that the handsome rich guy is not providing the information, then it is time to go home and wait for him to get the papers in order, not hang around and drink too much.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Park Row Books via NetGalley.

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