By: L. S. Hilton
Publication Date: 4/19/2016
My Rating: 2 Stars
With the cunning of Gone Girl's Amy Dunne, and as dangerous as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's Lisbeth Salander, the femme fatale of this Talented Mr. Ripley–esque psychological thriller is sexy, smart, and very, very bad in all the best ways. Judith Rashleigh spends her days as a put-upon assistant at a prestigious London art house, and her nights moonlighting as a hostess at one of the capital's notorious champagne bars. TO GET WHAT SHE WANTS Born on the outside, always looking in, Judith has worked hard to learn the rules of class. She's transformed her accent, taught herself about wine and the correct use of a dessert fork, not to mention the art of discretion. When she landed the job at British Pictures she thought she was finally on the make, but in a place like the House it turns out she may never pass the test. When Judith is fired after spotting an art forgery that could have made her career, she turns to the long-neglected friend that kept her chin up and back straight through every slight: Rage. SHE WILL CROSS EVERY LINE Feeling reckless, she agrees to accompany one of the champagne bar's biggest clients to the French Riviera only to find herself alone after a fatal accident. Tired of striving and the slow crawl to the top, Judith makes a decision. If you need to turn yourself into someone else, loneliness is a good place to start. Armed with beauty, wits, and insider knowledge of the art fraud that triggered her dismissal, Judith is determined to make her debonair lifestyle permanent—and her transformation complete. Maestra is a glamorous, ferocious psychological thriller and the beginning of a razor-sharp trilogy.
A special thank you to Penguin and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. L. S. Hilton's MAESTRA --What is not to love about art theft, a female fatale, a psychological mystery crime thriller? Right? Unfortunately, not what I received. Had higher expectations. Many of you may not agree with my review. To each their own opinion; however, rather than glossing over, my honest thoughts. The set up was great. The first part of the book, was entertaining and grabbed my attention. You see Judith as a young woman, trying hard to excel and make her way in the art world. She wants to do the right thing. She is a lowly receptionist at a well-known art house. She wants respect, and has debt. She lacks money. She is poor. She is vulnerable. She desires to gain entry into the upper echelon of the art world and society. Through an old acquaintance, she persuades Judith to take on a second job, working as a hostess at a champagne bar. Here she learns how to manipulate. No salary, only tips. So the goal is to get the guys to buy expensive champagne. However, James, old pasty, overweight gross man does not drink, but buys the champagne and has money. She collects money and builds her savings account. No sex at first. All is good. She is able to buy some nice clothes. (give me hot, good looks, not pasty, and fat) At the art house, things go south. She stumbles upon a conspiracy-- art fraud with misdeeds of her boss, Rupert – she is fired along with her accomplice. OK, now at this point, you can see the need for female vigilante – Justice. Was really excited to see how this would unfold. However, not in the way I had envisioned. A let down. No real plotting to seek revenge. Just a lot of killing and sex. When she goes on the trip with her friend and James, an accident-- not really her fault. She runs to escape. Even the next guy Steve .. I am still hooked. However, thereafter when getting to the next guy, and brutal murders – it is downhill from here until the end. Judith does a complete 180. Out of nowhere. She is now a cold-blooded killer. If you are going to create a sociopath, lead up to it. Create flash backs of her childhood, what made her turn into a killer. Thoughts, processes. Nothing here. It is supposed to be the journey which carries the reader. Also what makes a good thriller, is the chase. No real investigation. No forensics. No imagination. No one really much on her trail. Just a trashy girl who has crazy sex, gets high, and goes on to kill more people for no real reason. Where is the hook? You keep reading hoping you will get to the good part, which never comes. Judith/Judy (is a 50-60s name); not a name for a 30 something. Does not fit the character. When I think of a femme fatale ---I think of a good classic noir film. A femme fatale, a mysterious and seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers, often leading them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations. She is an archetype of literature and art. Her ability to entrance and hypnotize her victim with a spell was in the earliest stories seen as being literally supernatural; hence, the femme fatale today is still often described as having a power akin to an enchantress, seductress, vampire, witch, or demon, having power over men. A woman with both intelligence, glamour, sophisticated, and sex appeal that uses these skills to manipulate poor helpless men into doing what she wants. May cause death. Not trashy. Per Urban Dictionary: Trashy (women) are characterized by a hollow arrogance born out of insecurity and stupidity. Because deep down they know they are trashy they overcompensate in numerous of ways, and #1, to satisfy their own needs. They are insecure and tend to follow the latest trends, no matter how stupid, for a need to be accepted. When I think of the Greatest Femme Fatales in Classic Film Noir, women were either of two types (or archetypes) - dutiful, reliable, trustworthy and loving women; or femme fatales - mysterious, duplicitous, subversive, double-crossing, gorgeous, unloving, predatory, tough-sweet, unreliable, irresponsible, manipulative and desperate women. Usually, the male protagonist in film noir wished to elude his mysterious past, and had to choose what path to take (or have the fateful choice made for him). Invariably, the choice would be an overly ambitious one, to follow the dangerous but desirable wishes of these dames. The goadings of the traitorous, self-destructive femme fatale would lead the struggling, disillusioned, and doomed hero into committing murder or some other crime of passion coupled with twisted love. Instead of: Sexy, seductive, glamorous, provocative, erotic, passion, alluring, tasteful, enticing . . You get: Trailer trash, x-rated porn, gross, disgusting, revolting, distasteful, obnoxious, poor taste With this being said, when I think of art, culture, wealth, European travel—I think “Class”. With the heavy usage in the book, of designer fashion names, ritzy hotels, yachts, and name dropping---it wipes out all the glamour and class--- Just does not add up. Falls apart midway. Even though I am not an erotic fan, I do enjoy good psychological thrillers and have no issues with graphic sex scenes if done in taste. (otherwise, why bother). For example: A. R. Torre (Deanna Madden Series)-- She can get down and dirty with her sex scenes, but they are tastefully done, and her protagonist is someone you sympathize with, due to her horrific abusive past. So when she is evil, you still root for her. By 50% into the book, I wanted Judith to be caught--put me out of my misery. I was not even rooting for her. Disliked her, in fact. As far as the next two installments – no desire to read further. However, maybe I should skip to the final installment to see if we learn of Judith’s past, and she gets away with her murders. By the end at 3 am, was glad it was over. To be continued- don't think so. I had pre-ordered the audiobook; however, cancelled. Not up for a repeat performance. In my opinion, does not compare to The Talented Mr. Ripley nor Gone Girl, nor contains ingredients I look for in a a good psychological crime thriller.
About the Author
Lisa Hilton is an author and biographer. She grew up in the north of England and read English at New College, Oxford, after which she studied History of Art in Florence and Paris. After eight years in New York, Paris and Milan she has recently returned to England and now lives in London with her husband and their daughter. Her work has appeared in Vogue, Elle, the Evening Standard and the Telegraph, among others.
Lisa has written for The Spectator, The Times, Vogue, Elle, GQ, Harpers and Queen, Marie Claire, The Daily Mail, The Evening Standard, The Observer, The Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph, The Art Newspaper, ES Magazine, Tatler, The Literary Review, Porter and The New Yorker. Read More