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by Flora Collins
Mira, December 2022
336 pages
ISBN: 0778386937

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Vera McDonald is ambitious, ruthless, and doesn't care one whit about who she might hurt or offend on her way to making it to the top of the fashion industry. She is equally uninvolved in romance but does like a nice distraction from time to time, and so finds herself dating the ultra-rich, powerful, and alluring Tom Newburn who just might interest her more than she'd like. But after a few dates, she decides he's not so interesting after all and calls the affair off, thus setting in motion a series of events that will change her life more than she can possibly imagine.

While this sounds as if it might be a review of a sultry romance novel, it's not. There is a murder, and while there are plenty of relationships, there's not much—if any—romance. In A SMALL AFFAIR, Flora Collins moves back and forth in time and between locations exploring relationships and ways we present ourselves to the world, as well as how the world sees us. Social media plays a role, as might be expected in a novel of these times, but the in-person interactions are just as important as the virtual ones when it comes to image creation. Not surprisingly, no one and nothing is exactly who or what it seems in this novel, and while the reader may guess at many of the outcomes before the end, curiosity about what's happening, what will happen, whether or not disguises and lies will be seen through, and how everything will ultimately be resolved is enough to keep you reading.

If you're looking for well-drawn settings, lots of atmosphere, and likable characters, this is not the novel for you. While the settings are sketchily drawn, there's enough to give a sense of place, but place isn't particularly important. It's the characters who are important, but not a single one is entirely likeable, they're all very self-absorbed, and everyone has both a dark underbelly and dark secrets they don't want exposed. That could be (and to some extent is) off-putting, but it also rings very true, and watching all the darkness rise to the surface and seeing how all these unlikeable people interact is, in the end, worth staying for, as is the awareness that the horrors and creepiness that echo from beginning to end still linger, even after things may appear to be resolved and you've closed the book.

§ Meredith Frazier, a writer with a background in English literature, lives in Dallas, Texas

Reviewed by Meredith Frazier, April 2023

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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