Killing Me Softly: A Novel of Obsession

Nicci French, Author Mysterious Press $24 (360p) ISBN 978-0-89296-697-4
A critically acclaimed, bestselling British author (The Memory Game), French makes her American debut with a stunning novel of sexual obsession. Alice Loudon has a wonderful boyfriend, Jake; a nice apartment in London; good friends; and a satisfying job as a research manager in a pharmaceutical company. On her way to work one morning, she locks eyes with a handsome man dressed in black, and cannot get him out of her mind. Later that day, she finds him waiting for her and she plunges into an affair of such intensity that she leaves Jake, neglects her friends and her health and even puts herself in great danger. ""Sex had never been like this. There had been indifferent sex, embarrassing sex, nasty sex, good sex, great sex. This was more like obliterating sex."" Alice's new lover, Adam Tallis, is a mountain climber and a hero. Guiding an ill-fated expedition to the top of a Himalayan mountain, he risked his life to save over half the climbers (although five people died). He seems perfect, but he reveals little about himself; he never laughs; and sometimes he inflicts physical pain on Alice during sex. Despite the shocking revelations of a woman who claims to be his former lover, Alice marries Adam. Soon she cannot ignore other frightening signals: mysteriously threatening notes and incessant phone calls from someone who never speaks. After she meets several more women from Adam's past, she pieces together his secrets, and sees his overwhelming love for her in a more sinister light. With lucid and limber prose, French delves into Alice's thoughts as skillfully as she describes the London setting. The pacing is swift and the dialogue sharp and realistic. The story's thematic device is a cleverly imagined redoubling: the physical and psychic risks of mountain climbing parallel Alice's journey towards a perilous sexual summit. ""It had begun in rapture and finished in terror,'' reads a line near the end of the narrative. Every decade or so a psychological thriller appears that graphically recounts an intelligent woman's willing sexual subjugation; this gripping novel joins that group. Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club and Mystery Guild featured alternates; film rights to Montecito Picture Company. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/28/1999
Release date: 07/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
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