Nicci French, Author . Warner $24 (308p) ISBN 978-0-446-53347-8

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SECRET SMILE Nicci French . Warner , $24 (304p) ISBN 0-446-53347-5

Nobody does the dark underside of sex in the city better than the British couple who write as Nicci French, and their latest (after 2003's Land of the Living ) is one of their most sustained and believable studies in terror against women. Miranda Cotton has an ideal life in London, doing work she loves (building and contracting; she always seems to have a spot of paint in her hair), with no current love interest but lots of dating opportunities. Then a short, nasty liaison with a man who calls himself Brendan Block rips her comfortable world apart. A charming and dangerous psychopath, Block worms his way into the Cotton family claiming that he dumped Miranda (when in fact it was she who tossed him out when she caught him reading her diaries); he immediately wins the trust of her flustered parents and does serious damage to her older sister, Kerry, and her mentally fragile younger brother, Troy. The trouble is that nobody believes the rather rough-edged Miranda when she tries desperately to stop Block's rampage. Studded with sharp insights into the strange compromises involved in modern relationships, this novel could be the horror version of Bridget Jones's Diary . And the authors are so subtle at bringing Brendan and Miranda to life that readers might even begin to doubt that what she's telling us is the whole truth—until a stunning climax in which all sorts of secrets and lies are revealed. Agent, Joy Harris. (Jun. 22)

FYI: Nicci French is the pseudonym of English journalists Nicci Gerrard and Sean French.

Reviewed on: 04/05/2004
Release date: 06/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
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