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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

In Your Face

Scarlett Thomas

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To purchase In Your Face

Title: In Your Face
Author: Scarlett Thomas
Genre: Novel
Written: 1999
Length: 250 pages
Availability: In Your Face - US
In Your Face - UK
In Your Face - Canada
Faule Tricks - Deutschland
  • A Lily Pascale Mystery

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Our Assessment:

B : enjoyable amateur sleuthing; agreeable voice

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 5/1/2004 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Thomas's fresh and sexy contemporary English mystery, the second in a trilogy (after 2003's Dead Clever), keeps the reader riveted." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       In Your Face is the second (of only three) mysteries featuring and narrated by twenty-five-year-old Lily Pascale, university lecturer in crime fiction. She begins her story here at semester's end, a few months after her great local success in the case featured in Dead Clever -- for which she continues to get recognized (it comes up rather often -- perhaps a bit too often).
       It's a time of transition: Lily is clearing out her office, and close friend and colleague Fenn, who she thinks she might be in love with, is getting married in a few days (to a pregnant student of hers); among the slightly annoying parts of the story then are Fenn's repeated attempts to reach her on the telephone over the course of the novel and never quite managing to get through to her, leaving the state of their relationship and futures slightly up in the air until the end. At least Lily has the opportunity to put some distance between her and the wedding preparations, as Jess, a friend she hasn't seen since university (not that that was too long ago ...), gets in touch with her with a desperate plea for help -- a good enough excuse for Lily to head out of town, over to London.
       Lily's parents -- "My father was a chain-smoking, wine-drinking French womaniser; my mother was a radical feminist" -- are divorced, and Lily's trip to London gives her an opportunity to spend some time with dad Henri -- a fairly well-known psychiatrist with "a growing number of celebrity patients" -- and his new girlfriend, Star, a researcher of psychopathy, as Lily makes herself comfortable in dad's house.
       Jess' situation is an odd one, and one can see why she is concerned: a freelance journalist, she wrote an article for the tabloid Smile ! on stalking, profiling three stalked women and telling their stories. Now, on the day the story appeared, all three have been found dead -- murdered. Obviously, there must be a connection -- and Jess is terrified, since she's obviously implicated.
       Lily is as mystified as the police are -- and intrigued. Complicating matters, when she gets to London she can't find Jess, who seems to have gone into hiding or done a runner. But Lily goes ahead and looks into the case on her own, including visiting the three victims' homes. What's particularly baffling is the absence of any discernible motive: other than the article, there is nothing linking the three victims -- though it is notable that there are few people who knew them well, as, for example, all three no longer have parents:

Lots of people could have killed those women, but nobody seemed to have a very good reason for doing so.
       Readers do get glimpses of the mind behind the crimes, as, interspersed in Lily's own account are short sections, printed in italics, in which the killer explains himself. These bits seem to be part of a sort of interview -- like a journalist's Q & A with a criminal --, but they're also not quite coterminous with the action itself: his account seems to date from some later (but not final ...) point, the narrative proper slowly converging to it. These snippets appear more frequently as the story builds towards it conclusion -- nicely revealing (as Lily has begun to sense) that Lily is being stalked by the murderer, and that he has plans for her too .....
       Other odds and ends of interest include the pointer to the classic Michael Powell film, Peeping Tom, which seems to hold some clue to the who is behind the crimes -- though here too, as with the phone calls from Fenn which she never seems to be able to get to, Thomas draws out the suspense of Lily actually managing to be able to get around to watching the film. And there's also that brief opening scene, a Prologue set in 1987, more than a decade earlier, in which unidentified youngsters are doing things they shouldn't be -- which obviously has some connection with the case itself.
       The case does have a few weaknesses -- most notably the article-idea itself, as it seems implausible that three women who were stalked would willingly have their pictures taken and prominently displayed in a mass-circulation tabloid -- an invitation to stalkers old and new, surely. (Thomas emphasizes that the magazine insisted they allow themselves to be photographed, no less.) And if the explanation behind the crime itself is a bit far-fetched and, in a variety of ways, rather a stretch, Thomas unfolds the resolution appealingly enough. Yes, Lily is advised rather too often not to go to the police with the latest bit of information she finds, and she probably should have involved them some more, but everything falls -- perhaps a bit too easily -- very nicely into place.
       There are a few odds tics in the novel -- Lily is rather detailed about her various modes of transport, making for more mentions of taxi and other rides than probably necessary -- and Thomas never gets entirely comfortable with Lily's would-be romantic life, though it's brought to the fore repeatedly. There are also quite a few feints and misdirects -- clever enough mostly, though occasionally a bit too obvious. On the whole, however, Lily is an engaging character and guide, and the story enjoyable.
       In Your Face is fairly unexceptional, but it's a solid little mystery novel and a satisfying read.

- M.A.Orthofer, 4 February 2019

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Reviews: Scarlett Thomas: Other books by Scarlett Thomas under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       English author Scarlett Thomas was born in 1972.

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