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WHITE BODIES
by Jane Robins
Touchstone, September 2017
304 pages
$24.99
ISBN: 1501165089


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Tilda and Felix appear to be a perfect couple: charming, beautiful, rich, and in love, with everything going their way. Tilda's twin Callie, though, suspects that all may not be as it seems when she finds a syringe in the garbage and sees bruises on Tilda's arms. Desperate to protect her sister from Felix's violence, Callie begins to research domestic abuse online and gets sucked into a world of predators, prey, and those trying to protect loved ones. Before she knows it, Callie is questioning everything from Felix's actions to her own responses, and when one of her online acquaintances is killed and Felix dies, the spiral of violence and doubt spins out of control.

WHITE BODIES by Jane Robins is told in first person from Callie's perspective, and one of Robins's great accomplishments is that she keeps the reader as much off balance as Callie is. This is a psychological suspense novel, and Robins plays not only on the psychological make-ups of her characters but on the reader's, as well. Almost from the beginning, the reader questions Callie's reliability as a narrator, but there are so many dark elements and off-kilter actions that it's hard to know who is manipulator and who is being manipulated. The end is not entirely surprising, but it is unsettling, and the journey to that end is a hard-to-put-down page-turner.

Robins began her career as a journalist, and she uses facts about domestic violence to great effect, showing both the horror of the prevalence and how that horror can be the basis for equally horrific acts. But WHITE BODIES is not a dry recitation of statistics. The statistics are worked into the storyline to give it power, but the story and characters themselves are the shining stars. Callie is a deeply drawn, flawed character which makes it a bit uncomfortable to spend so much time in her head, yet, at the same time, it's fascinating. Tilda, too, is well portrayed, and the minor characters stand on their own with distinctive characteristics. Disconcerting—even to the point of creepy—details deepen the reader's understanding of all the main players and add to the overall suspense. Settings are also used effectively, showing contrasts between Tilda and Callie and illustrating the changes in Tilda that worry Callie so much. The ending, while not particularly neat and tidy, is believable. It is, however, the constant sense of unease, the continual second-guessing by both reader and characters, and the sense of deep flaws in ordinary people living what look to be ordinary lives that make this novel so intriguing—and disturbing.

§ Meredith Frazier, a writer with a background in English literature, lives in Dallas, Texas

Reviewed by Meredith Frazier, August 2017

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