Exquisite by Sarah Stovell

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Exquisite by Sarah Stovell

Buy Exquisite by Sarah Stovell at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Thrillers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Stephen Leach
Reviewed by Stephen Leach
Summary: Two very different women develop a connection that swiftly turns unsettling in this seductive thriller. An absolutely gripping page-turner from start to finish.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 250 Date: July 2017
Publisher: Orenda
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1910633748

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I was looking forward to reading Exquisite ever since I first heard about it, and it didn't disappoint. It's a murky, suggestive thriller about two very different women who find themselves fascinatingly connected; it's a compulsive, attention-grabbing read that had me hunched up in bed till 1am, desperate to finish it as soon as I could.

It's clever, excellently-paced, and uncannily realistic. It's just a pity that I managed to figure out the ending about a quarter of the way in.

Credit where it's due: this didn't stop me from enjoying every single page of what is still a truly excellent debut. But I won't be re-reading this any time soon. I've said it before, part of what makes a mystery story of any kind great is the thought of revisiting it, picking out all the clues you missed and putting the pieces together all over again. Exquisite is told in alternating points of view, flashing back and forth between both of the main characters, and interjecting every so often with a flash-forward to after the climax. A little too much is given away in these, though – I wish they hadn't been included until about halfway through the book.

I don't want to spend the whole review harping on about the structure – not when there's so much about this book to praise. Stovell inhabits the novel's two voices so excellently: the worlds and experiences of the two characters are miles apart (both literally and metaphorically) and they're filled with little touches that make them feel real. Alice's endless worrying about purpose and money and security felt uncannily apt – the handful of wry remarks about the state of the country got me onside in an instant – and a couple of the side characters showed unexpected depth. Though the initial relationship between Bo and Alice is touching to read, the sweetness turns gradually to bitter as the plot develops. Stovell has an incredible knack for creating that indefinable sense of unease – you know something's wrong, but what?

It feels very much like Exquisite is the latest in the genre of dark female-centric thrillers that have been so popular lately – The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, Room, all the other books with 'the girl' in their titles (I'm sure one of the papers coined a term for all of these – fem-noir? Lady thrillers? Whatever it is, I'm not a fan of the term) and I have no hesitation in saying it's good enough to deserve a place alongside them. And if it doesn't get a film adaptation in a couple of years, I'll be very surprised. I just wish it had taken me a little longer to work out the twist.

As mentioned, if you enjoyed this you'll probably also enjoy Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I'd also recommend Suzanne Bugler.

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Buy Exquisite by Sarah Stovell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Exquisite by Sarah Stovell at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Exquisite by Sarah Stovell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Exquisite by Sarah Stovell at Amazon.com.


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