Book Review: Maestra by L.S. Hilton

MaestraMaestra by L.S. Hilton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Publisher: Zaffre
A shockingly original thriller - the launch title of Zaffre, the new fiction imprint of Bonnier Publishing Fiction

Judith Rashleigh works as an assistant in a prestigious London auction house, but her dreams of breaking into the art world have been gradually dulled by the blunt forces of snobbery and corruption. To make ends meet she moonlights as a hostess in one of the West End's less salubrious bars - although her work there pales against her activities on nights off.

When Judith stumbles across a conspiracy at her auction house, she is fired before she can expose the fraud. In desperation, she accepts an offer from one of the bar's clients to accompany him to the French Riviera. But when an ill-advised attempt to slip him sedatives has momentous consequences, Judith finds herself fleeing for her life.

Now alone and in danger, all Judith has to rely on is her consummate ability to fake it amongst the rich and famous - and the inside track on the hugely lucrative art fraud that triggered her dismissal.

Set in the exotic palaces and yachts of Europe's seriously wealthy, Maestra is a shockingly original thriller. With a heroine as wickedly perceptive as Amy Dunne and as dangerous as Lisbeth Salander, this marks the beginning of a razor-sharp and meteoric sequence of novels that will have readers around the world on the edge of their seats and holding their breath.

I'm conflicted about this one. Maybe more correctly, I'm ambivalent. I read this quickly enough but I can't say I liked or disliked it. I enjoyed the art angle and found it very interesting. I usually enjoy reading about morally questionable, hot mess characters who pile on indefensible acts, but I found something lacking in Judith/Lauren. I didn't root for or against her and worse than anything, I reached the end with its promise to continue and knew that I didn't care. I dislike that more than anything, the not caring about her fate. I didn't care about her penchant for designer couture and may have cared more about her if less time had been spent outlining and underscoring that aspect of her.

I don't know what it says about me that I kept waiting for her to shock me. I wish she had. I wish I'd been scandalized and had once reached for some pearls to clutch but I just didn't. The sex here is purely transactionary so while Judith/Lauren feels no connection, neither does this reader. To any of it.

It may be a big summer/beach read and will probably have a great marketing campaign to accompany it. I saw it compared to a splice between Highsmith's Talented Mr. Ripley and 50 Shades. Between the two, I've only read TMR and have to tell you reader, I think your time is better spent reading that. Three stars because the bit about art will stay with me.

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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