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In Malice, Quite Close: A Novel

In Malice, Quite Close: A Novel

4.7 7
by Brandi Lynn Ryder

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A haunting and sophisticated debut in which priceless art and unspeakable desires converge.

French ex-pat Tristan Mourault is the wealthy, urbane heir to a world- renowned collection of art-and an insatiable voyeur enamored with Karen Miller, a fifteen-year-old girl from a working-class family in San Francisco. Deciding he must "rescue" Karen from her


A haunting and sophisticated debut in which priceless art and unspeakable desires converge.

French ex-pat Tristan Mourault is the wealthy, urbane heir to a world- renowned collection of art-and an insatiable voyeur enamored with Karen Miller, a fifteen-year-old girl from a working-class family in San Francisco. Deciding he must "rescue" Karen from her unhappy circumstances, Tristan kidnaps her and stages her death to mask his true crime.

Years later, Karen is now "Gisele" and the pair lead an opulent life in idyllic and rarefied Devon, Washington. But when Nicola, Gisele's young daughter, stumbles upon a secret cache of paintings-all nudes of Gisele-Tristan's carefully constructed world begins to crumble. As Nicola grapples with the tragedy that follows, she crosses paths with Amanda Miller, who comes to Devon to investigate the portraits' uncanny resemblance to her long-lost sister.

Set against a byzantine backdrop of greed, artifice, and dangerous manipulations, In Malice, Quite Close is an intoxicating debut that keeps its darkest secrets until the very last page.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Told in turns by nearly all of its sexy, artistic, and obsessive characters, this byzantine debut stretches narrative to the breaking point. Tristan Mourault III, a rich, French Humbert Humbert-figure, becomes desperately infatuated with a middle-class American teen named Karen Miller, and the two fake her death and run off, with her posing as his daughter, Gisele; after a time living together in New York, they move to an artists' colony in Devon, Wash., at the invitation of the charismatic artist Robin Dresden. Gisele marries Luke Farrell, merely a pawn in Tristan's game, and has a beautiful daughter, Nicola. Of course, before long, Gisele wants out of her cage, so she takes other lovers and, through a series of convenient coincidences that involve blackmail and murder, Gisele's past re-emerges, and her long-lost sister, Amanda, now living in Seattle, happens to have some impossibly close and fraught connections with Tristan's milieu. The narrative winds itself into hysterical knots as revelations and twists pile up, sometimes more than a bit implausibly. Though Ryder gets credit for audacious puzzle building, the plot is more exhausting than enlightening; indeed, though it's a page-turner, it doesn't reach the dizzying literary heights it reaches for. (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews

Creepy doings in Washington State, where a vulnerable 15-year-old girl kidnapped by a twisted French expatriate in San Francisco painfully comes of age, and where, years later, her younger sister looks for answers to her disappearance.

Ryder's first novel is basically a vampire saga with snooty art collectors and forgers substituting for the vampires. The protagonist is wealthy Tristan Mourault, a collector of females who woos young Karen Miller through a series of "accidental" encounters and convinces her to escape from her abusive family. After drugging her, he uses her blood to leave fake traces of her death, renames her Gisele after his late wife and, posing as her father, gives her a whirlwind tour of New York. With a narrative leap of 15 years, the book moves to Washington and introduces us to her beautiful and inquisitive daughter Nicola, who thinks Tristan is her Grand-père and Gisele's haunted husband Luke is her father. The plot centers on a secret series of nude paintings of Gisele, whose sexual awakening arrives the same time as Tristan's impotence. Secrets are revealed, covers are blown and Gisele mysteriously drowns. Who did her in? Plotting not being Ryder's strong suit, you may not care. The novel, which takes its title from a Rimbaud poem, gets off to a beguiling start with its nicely subdued sense of menace and dark intrigue. But it fails to build in intensity, relies too much on contrivances to stay afloat, and the characters are disappointingly superficial.

A modern gothic that emits a creepy glow in establishing itself but reveals the unsteady hand of a first-time novelist as the story unfolds.

Product Details

Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
9.12(w) x 6.36(h) x 1.32(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Growing up, my heroes were all madmen of a sort. Madness, my mother said, defined great men, just as fear defined weak ones. It seemed wise to adopt her opinion. My ancestors range from the visionary to the criminal and I am named for a good many of them. (Tristan Leandre Jourdain Mourault III.) My surname is a dignified one in my native land, translating roughly to ‘little dark.’ I’ve always thought of this as dusk, just before night and beyond the normalcy of day. It is where we have always existed.

My obsession with beauty began in infancy. I was mesmerized by pictures, by flowers and faces, by that lovely symmetry which even the undiscriminating eye terms beautiful. Though Papa was heir to a fortune in Impressionist art, Maman was the true aesthete. I often think of the Mourault Collection as hers alone. She took the paintings like lovers and knew all their stories: the gentle arthritic Renoir, the tempers of Degas, the humiliations of Lautrec and infidelities of Monet. She wove wondrous tales around them, audacious and certainly fictive. Maman knew that the power of a painting, of any beautiful thing, is not in itself but in its afterlife. Not the thing of a moment, but a perpetual quest.

My own quests began with the lovely Yvette Desmarais at the age of five. At my birthday party, I cornered her in the garden. Never was there a more satisfying game of cache-cache, or as you say, Hide and Seek. Those wide eyes, the color of ice on a gray day, and the lines of her bow-tie mouth. She began to scream, yet in later years took to writing me love letters. The paradox was instructive.

Later, I exercised more discretion but took great delight in spying upon one of our maids, Martine, at her bath. I did so guiltlessly; it was not so very different from gazing upon the creamy flesh of Renoir’s nudes. Only I preferred my art living.

I hesitate to say I was sex-obsessed. I had not so much an unquenchable appetite as an exacting one and as such, my cosseted world soon grew confining. I elected to spend summers with relatives in Brussels, Edinburgh and Munich. My seasons had new names: Jennifer, Adela, Genevieve, Anna. With conscious deliberation I collected women, yet they were not conquests; they were studies. I soaked in their scent, memorized their outlines, colored them in. Nothing approached the ideal of my vision. And so I sought visions everywhere, following them to their end. And then one came that did not end.

I called her Gisèle.

Meet the Author

Brandi Lynn Ryder was born in Sonora, California, and makes her home in Napa Valley along with her cat, Murphy (the muse). She graduated summa cum laude from San Jose State University, with Honors in English and a focus in Creative Writing. Her first novel, In Malice, Quite Close was a finalist in the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. It's the culmination of a lifelong passion for storytelling, which began almost before she could ambulate.



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In Malice, Quite Close 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Dollycas More than 1 year ago
Tristan Mourault, a Frenchman, and heir to a world renowned art collection featuring Impressionist masterpieces loses himself when sees young Karen Miller in San Francisco. He immediately decides he must have her and lets nothing deter him from that mission. The fact that she is only 15 is inconsequential, he believes he is saving her from the fate of the family she was born into. He does everything he can to win her trust and then makes the calculated plan for her disappearance. Within days Karen Miller no longer exists as she becomes Giselle, his daughter to the public, his lover in private. The story then moves ahead 15 years to Devon, Washington. An almost magical town and Tristan and Giselle are part of the eccentric art world. Giselle has matured, married and has a daughter. But all is not perfect in this wonderland they have created. Her daughter discovers something that will turn all their lives sideways. Not everyone will survive the revelations uncovered. I enjoyed what has been called a "haunting" novel. The title comes from a poem by Arthur Rimbaud entitled The First Evening and fits well with this story. The story has also been compared to Nabokov's Lolita. Quite an accomplishment for a debut novel. I found it to be a suspenseful look at some extraordinary characters in some extraordinary situations. The plot kept the pages turning and then slowed in places to an almost maddening pace and then picked up and slowed again. It was written almost like a dance or a give and take relationship with the reader. Secrets continue to be revealed until the last page and even then this reader is still unsure of the real truth. The author's descriptions of not only scenes but of the paintings that are key to the whole story are so vivid I was amazed to learn that there was not a real set of paintings to inspire her. They come alive in your mind's eye very easily. I would encourage readers that after you have read the book to go to The Reader's Guide to learn more about the background of this novel. I will not post it here because there are spoilers in the guide. It is a fine debut but I caution you to be aware of the ebb and flow because the further you get into the story you will envision the prize at the end. This is definitely a book to be savored slowly and allow it to unfold before you so you catch all the nuances of the story, like the chapter titles. There are many layers, this is more than a mystery, more than a psychological thriller, more than a philosophical look at look at how someone held captive acclimates. This a book that could leave a different impression on everyone who reads it. It can give you the shivers and make you feel a little guilty about enjoying a book that is filled with so much despair. I am anxious to see other reviews of this book and to read more by this author. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Viking. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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gaylelin More than 1 year ago
Life Imitates Art On the same day Brandi Lynn Ryder's In Malice Quite Close found its way to me, I read a news article about a missing fifteen-year-old girl. Something led the authorities to believe she'd left home willingly in the company of a sex offender who is in his 30s. This item erased my questions concerning how a young girl could just disappear without being taken against her will. This is somewhat a disturbing story told in a superbly written way that keeps you turning the pages. Karen Miller was a waif, a shabbily dressed child living in not the best of circumstances. A young man of European descent noticed her and was enamored. He spent days stalking her and planning how to make her his own. One night as he hid in her yard, observing her through her lighted bedroom window, he saw Karen's drunken father enter her room and begin to molest her. This gave our stalker the excuse he needed to "rescue" her. He began to run into her at various sites until she noticed him and questioned why he was following her. He denied that fact and befriended her, drawing her in as sexual predators so expertly do. He convinced her to run away with him. After he medicated her into unconsciousness, he drew enough blood from her veins to set up a scene that would convince the authorities that Karen had been killed and thrown into the bay. They drove from California to New York where he gave her a new name, Gisele, and introduced her to the art world as his daughter. Fifteen years pass in which Gisele married and seven months later had a daughter. Her little family continued to live with her "father", Tristan. Her husband, Luke, an ineffective painter, discovered a secret room full of nude paintings of Gisele. He suspected the artist to be his "father-in-law", but Tristan denied having painted the nudes. Everyone else thought Luke painted them himself. The paintings were brought forth to be featured in a special showing. Meanwhile, Karen's younger sister, Mandy, who was only nine at the time of Karen's abduction, and whom Karen thought died years ago in a car accident with her parents, saw an advertisement for the showing and recognized her long lost sister. This should be enough to whet your appetite. When did Gisele cease being Tristan's daughter and become his lover? Was Tristan the actual creator of the paintings? Doesn't Karen herself know who did the paintings? Add in forged masterpieces, secret passageways, paternity issues, a questionable death and you're in for a wild ride. This is a wonderful book of intrigue and mystery. I give it five stars.
Syanne Dominguez More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago