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"Pretty Things," | Reviewed by Pat Sainz

Updated: Aug 22, 2020

If you are looking for a story full of twists and turns that will keep you reading nonstop, then “Pretty Things,” by Janelle Brown, is the book for you. This psychological thriller embraces themes of revenge, of love triangles, and of rich versus poor. The novel provides entertaining reading for anyone lucky enough to come across it.

Nina (sometimes known as Ashley) adopts the lifestyle of her grifter mother. Nina’s altruistic nature competes with her mother’s self-absorbed, childish dependency on others for care-taking. However, Nina comes to believe that the acquired lifestyle of thievery and scams, which duplicate her mother’s actions, are justified.

Nina focuses on people whom she believes to be too rich and too greedy. Nina also feels she can pursue her secret life of crime because somebody has to pay for her mother’s expensive cancer treatments.

Enter Lachlan, whose charm captivates both Nina and her mother. His charisma and connections enable both women to target “marks” that benefit the three thieves. Only when Nina and Lachlan return to Lake Tahoe, a place where Nina and her mother lived for a few months, do things begin to take an awkward and deadly turn.

Their target is a formerly wealthy heiress named Vanessa, now an Internet “influencer” with whom Nina had contact during her high school days in Tahoe. Nina feels her plans to steal from Vanessa, and subsequently ruin her life, are justified based on the family’s treatment of Nina and her mother years ago. Vanessa does not recognize Nina since she’d gotten older.

Their scheme is so detailed that it seems nothing could go wrong. But they may have underestimated fragile Vanessa, and they may have misinterpreted the ability of Nina’s mother to connive her way into the good graces of those she professes to love.

Brown has created well-crafted profiles of characters with propensities for good and evil. The question of which aspect of human nature wins out will intrigue readers from one chapter to the next.

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