A racy novel, which has scored a major Hollywood deal, is picking up attention at the London Book Fair and has officially been set as the launch title of Zaffre Publishing, the new adult fiction imprint at Bonnier. L.S. Hilton's Maestra, which Mark Smith acquired, has been added to the slate of projects former Sony Pictures chief Amy Pascal has been accruing for her new production company, Pascal Pictures.
Rumblings of the film deal first surfaced last week, from the Hollywood trades. The book, which is the first in a planned trilogy, was dubbed by Deadline as a “sexy thriller with an art world vibe.”
Smith, who joined Bonnier in December as CEO of its fiction department, took world rights to Maestra. While no deals on the book had closed at press time, he confirmed that “there has been tons of interest” in the novel, and that Bonnier has received a number of offers from “key European territories.”
The novel’s heroine Judith Rashleigh, which Bonnier is calling a blend of Gone Girl’s Amy Dunne and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’s Lisbeth Salander, works at a London auction house by day and as a hostess at a West End bar by night. After uncovering a conspiracy at the auction house and losing her job in an attempt to expose it, Rashleigh unwisely agrees to accompany one of the bar’s regulars on a trip to France. There, as Bonnier explained, she finds herself “fleeing for her life” after “an ill-advised attempt to slip him sedatives has momentous consequences.”
The psychological thriller, which some insiders have dubbed “The Talented Mrs. Ripley,” drew Pascal in large part, it seems, thanks to the character of Rashleigh. Pascal called the heroine “brilliant, sly, deadly and entirely control of her life.” Smith said Rashleigh is “a lead character readers around the world will fall in love with.”
Hilton, who grew up in England, works in media; Bonnier said she is a journalist, lecturer and broadcaster.