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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

The Look-Alike, Erica Spindler: A Review

The Look-Alike caught my attention based on the blurb and the cover. I finished this one in about three stinted sittings, so it is a rather quick and fast-paced read.

Sienna returns home after ten years in London and immediately becomes embroiled in a murder investigation that altered the course of her life. In order to find the identity of the killer, she must open old wounds, face her personal issues with her mother (and the disorder from which she suffers), and conquer her own fears of meeting the same fate.

On the surface, there's a lot going on here. Complicated family relationships, tangled family history, a murder investigation--both old and new--all while attempting to build a career and start a relationship with a mysterious yet handsome neighbor. Phew. But it works; Spindler weaves the story sub plots together beautifully and gives time to each growing conflict. I appreciated her control of the pacing and the layers she gave to the characters.

I also enjoyed the cast of characters. It's difficult to create a thriller where multiple suspects jump out at you as possible killers, but Spindler accomplished this with ease. While I wasn't surprised at the conclusion, I did second-guess my assumptions a few times, and I loved that about the reading experience.

However, there were some stylistic elements I took issue with. First, this book could've been trimmed a bit. A lot of the plot points are repeated multiple times. We see them happen firsthand, then the character reflects on them, then we see her tell another character the exact same information we already know without really building on the points or providing added insight. This happens a few times throughout the narrative and I found myself skimming the sections where I already knew what was said--verbatim--and how she felt about it. Second, the dialogue felt forced in sections, with odd turns of phrase and diction that stood out in an distracting way (ie "cupping her derrier", "averted gazes," etc.).

I also felt Sienna's character development missed the mark. Her mother's condition as it directly relates to herself was such an interesting opportunity to explore, and most of the time, I wanted it to go beyond the surface and never really did. For example, Sienna is a chef--trained in Paris and has ten years of experience under her belt in London--a fact that is mentioned multiple times. Yet we never see her showing this knowledge, and it felt more like someone pretending to be a chef with a passing level of knowledge. Depth of flavor, "veggie omelette and fresh squeezed OJ," and almond butter were the take-aways, but I got frustrated every time it was referenced.

I felt the same way about the mother's affliction. It seemed like some research was done into the condition, but beyond a few simple, repetitive facts, we get a very narrow interpretation of what it means. I wanted more of the fear, not just to be told that Sienna was afraid she was going to turn into her mother. These things took me out of the story.

Overall, The Look-Alike had an interesting plot with fast-paced sub-stories and an exciting climax. While I didn't love it, I could see someone who prefers in-your-face investigations and a fast romance to like it more than I did.


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