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Envy    by Sandra Brown order for
by Sandra Brown
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2001 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The author hooks the reader at the beginning with a puzzle, the Prologue to a book called Envy. The 'book within a book' device has been spreading across genres lately and Brown applies it masterfully. The Prologue tells about three exuberant young people (two men and a woman) who head out to sea in a rented boat with the obvious intent to party. Only one returns, a young man distraught, bruised and bloodied. In response to official questioning about what happened to the others, he whispers only one word ... Envy.

The story fast forwards twelve years to a 2002 scene in the office of Maris Matherly-Reed, senior editor in a respected family publishing firm. Maris is married to Noah Reed, another senior manager in the firm and one-time author of The Vanquished. She fell in love with the book before meeting and wedding its author. Now the marriage is starting to fray around the edges. At the same time, a manuscript casually pulled from a neglected slush pile has caught Maris' editorial interest and she attempts to track down its author, P.M.E. in Ste Anne Island, Georgia.

The reader meets the crippled (bound to a wheelchair) writer before the spirited, and of course gorgeous, publisher does. Parker appears to be plotting more than a novel. In fact the manuscript is a lure with which he's hooked his editor and he steadily reels her in, while unfolding a plot that has been fourteen years in writing. Brown does an elegant job of interleaving further chapters of Parker's Envy through her story, revealing just enough tantalizing hints to keep a high level of suspense.

I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the young men's fraternity existence ... 'They had the decorum of swine. As male Homo Sapiens tend to do when gathered in groups of two or more, these eighty-two had regressed to the level of cavemen not nearly as refined as Neanderthals.' Though it's easy to guess the identities of the two young men, and the author gives the reader a good view of the villain of the piece early on, she holds back plenty of other surprises until the very satisfactory ending.

Envy is as much a romance as a thriller, the fireworks starting with the first meeting between Maris and the reclusive, bad-tempered Parker and continuing (hot and heavy) up to the final page. But the love story is secondary to the primary plot which is a powerfully written and absolutely fascinating tale within a tale of envy ... and vengeance.

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