Title: Pretty Things
Author: Janelle Brown
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Publisher: Random House
Date published: April 21st 2020
Page Count: 496
Nina once bought into the idea that her fancy liberal arts degree would lead to a fulfilling career. When that dream crashed, she turned to stealing from rich kids in L.A. alongside her wily Irish boyfriend, Lachlan. Nina learned from the best: Her mother was the original con artist, hustling to give her daughter a decent childhood despite their wayward life. But when her mom gets sick, Nina puts everything on the line to help her, even if it means running her most audacious, dangerous scam yet.
Vanessa is a privileged young heiress who wanted to make her mark in the world. Instead she becomes an Instagram influencer—traveling the globe, receiving free clothes and products, and posing for pictures in exotic locales. But behind the covetable façade is a life marked by tragedy. After a broken engagement, Vanessa retreats to her family’s sprawling mountain estate, Stonehaven: a mansion of dark secrets not just from Vanessa’s past, but from that of a lost and troubled girl named Nina.
Nina’s, Vanessa’s, and Lachlan’s paths collide here, on the cold shores of Lake Tahoe, where their intertwined lives give way to a winter of aspiration and desire, duplicity and revenge.
**Thank you NetGalley for this book in exchange for an honest review**
While the gorgeous book cover is what made me request the novel, the suspenseful and gripping opening immediately grabbed my attention as I first dug into the prologue and introduction of Nina Ross. It’s clear that Janelle Brown’s writing is captivating and descriptive. I was drawn in by the cinematic feel of the first few scenes and anticipated the rest of the book to play out like thriller.
Nina is a grifter and a daughter of an ex-con. Working alongside her boyfriend Lachlan, she steals antiques and luxuries from the rich to pay the bills. When her mother falls ill, Nina flies back to the West Coast and decides to pull one last con to save her ailing mother. They’re target is Vanessa Liebling, who comes from old money and became famous about three years ago. But Nina has already had her mark on Vanessa for twelve years. As Lachlan and Nina make their way to Stonehaven, secrets of the past come back to haunt Nina.
The book pivots between the perspectives of Nina and Vanessa, but Brown does a great job at distinguishing the voices. Bringing reader’s into the past lives of Nina and Vanessa, Brown brings to light that the two are quite complicated, more than just a money-envying grifter or a superficial trust-fund daughter. And as the novel goes on, they reveal more of their past and the flaws that have been setting them on the edge.
But as Nina lets her emotions get involved and technicalities get in the way, she soon finds herself in a hole that she needs to dig out of before it’s too late.
I found the characters fleshed out very well, but seemingly at the cost of the plot. While the story began with flair and seductiveness, it quickly slowed down as the book took its time to set out the scam and its characters. 50% into the book, and the con has only just started?
I enjoyed learning more about the characters as well as their flaws; however, I didn’t feel an attachment towards them nor the suspense as the plot finally begins to unravel. The slow pacing and the constant back and forth led to an underwhelming ending.
Unfortunately, the wow-factor that typically encompasses a thriller novel just wasn’t quite there. However, I really did enjoy the character building and the writing in Pretty Things, and found it easy to empathize with the characters and their past. It was a good read nonetheless, and I would be interested in checking out the author’s other novels.