It brings you right into the heart of LA…
First up, the premise: Maggie is a copyeditor with the Roque Museum in LA. It’s a Thursday night in 2003, the opening night of a new exhibition by the acclaimed artist, Kim Lord. Her exhibition, ‘Still Lives’, reimagines the real-life and particularly gruesome murders of women. Maggie is dreading Kim’s arrival as the artist is now seeing Maggie’s ex, Greg. The gallery staff are waiting for Kim to arrive. The paparazzi are waiting for Kim to arrive. Everyone is waiting. But she never turns up.
Every single page will keep you guessing…
Over the next ten days of Maggie’s life, we’re brought on a whirlwind journey through the egotism, paranoia and treachery of the LA art world. You’ll think you’ve solved the mystery, only to have the rug pulled from under you by Hummel’s sharp and skilful writing. It’s a book where the truth is always just under the surface, you think you see it, then you don’t.
Maggie is the perfect anti-heroine…
Maggie is a very satisfying anti-heroine: over thirty, no children, no wedding ring, and a self-confessed disappointment to her parents. You’ll find yourself siding with her almost immediately. Hummel is interested in the minutia of female friendship, with much more space being given to Maggie’s feelings for her female circle of friends than her romantic feelings for men.
You might miss your stop…
There’s so much to pick apart in Still Lives. Virtually every female character alludes to a past trauma. For several, it’s abuse at the hands of men – the fear and violence Kim Lord painted onto her canvases is also sketched onto the lives of these women. The pace reaches a breakneck speed in the closing chapters as Maggie races to figure out what happened to Kim and prove her own innocence. It’s an utterly engrossing read – don’t be surprised if you miss your stop.
And if you love Still Lives, you need to read these thrillers…
All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin
All We Ever Wanted explores a similarly privileged and rarefied world as Still Lives. This time, it’s the moneyed elite of Nashville, explored in Emily Giffin’s novel. Nina Browning is a rich philanthropist, her husband is from an old and respected family, her son is set to go to Princeton – she has everything. Tom Volpe is a single dad, struggling to juggle work with raising his daughter. One night, Nina’s son and Tom’s daughter both attend the same party. A horrible incident takes place, one that will change all their lives. Nina and Tom have to decide whose side they are actually on. A thought-provoking read.
Perfect Liars by Rebecca Reid
If you enjoy the exploration of female friendship in Still Lives, you’ll love Perfect Liars, Rebecca Reid’s debut novel. Lila, Georgia and Nancy have been friends since boarding school. They know everything about each other, maybe too much. They’ve been keeping a particularly dark secret since they were teenagers, which if revealed, could destroy their lives. All three friends meet for dinner but only two will survive. The nuances and subtleties of female friendship are shown to full effect here. Absolutely gripping.
Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber
When Charles Buhrman is brutally killed in his own kitchen, his teenage neighbour is arrested and jailed for his murder. Case solved. Now, 13 years later, journalist Poppy Parnell decides to investigate the case and makes a podcast series from her research. Buhrman’s daughter, Josie, has tried to put her past behind her, but when the podcast goes viral, she has no choice but to confront it. Josie soon realises that if she doesn’t act fast, her past is going to become her future. A real page-turner from debut novelist, Kathleen Barber, that interrogates modern society’s fascination with violence and death.
Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman
The New York Times bestselling debut novel from Downton Abby actress Catherine Steadman. Erin is a whip smart documentary maker and Mark is an extremely charming investment banker. When this golden couple are on their honeymoon in Bora Bora, they discover something in the water. They’re unsure of what to do, and end up making a decision they later can’t escape from, no matter how hard they try. Something in the Water has one of the best opening chapters EVER. No spoilers, but this is a book that is guaranteed to immediately hook you and not let go.