The Face Thief
Eli Gottlieb
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Buy *The Face Thief* by Eli Gottlieb online

The Face Thief
Eli Gottlieb
William Morrow
256 pages
January 2012
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Examining the notion of male arrogance and hubris, Gottlieb uses the machinations of three characters to craft a suspenseful, eerie tale that centers on the theme of self-identity. Much of the action is set in San Francisco and New York, the novel encompassing the worlds of obsession and betrayal, challenging the beliefs of two men drawn into the seductive collusion of one rapacious femme fatale.

From her place in a hospital bed, watched over by a detective called Dan France, an unnamed girl is certain that something awful has happened. Like Jane Eyre, she feels trapped in a remote country setting and dying for love. She remembers tumbling downward in what felt like slow motion and experiencing a terrible concussive series of blows to the head. This violent scene sets the tone for what swiftly becomes an exercise in recollection as the womanís mind continues to recede backwards.

Meanwhile, at Lawrence Billings' daylong seminar on the art of face reading, a woman called Margot Lassiter makes herself known. A watchfulness behind Margotís eyes and the forced intonations of her voice give off a sense of cunning. Although Lawrence is cognizant of Margotís attentions, he professes to be happily married to his lovely wife, Glynis, who has always questioned her husbandís fidelity and is made well aware of his philandering ways.

The novel plays with time, the authorís cryptic, non-linear structure forcing us to place the shattered pieces of the plot together. Amid the narcotic influence of sex, the smoke thickens, and Margotís perfume encloses Lawrence like a room within a room, forcing him to be ďunnaturally cautious." Meeting Lawrence for clandestine lessons in a rented conference room, Margotís seductive dance coincides with the machinations of another woman called Janelle, who contacts John Potash with an offer to invest his entire savings in her company.

A pretty girl with a brilliant, sexy smile, Janelle is disarmingly convincing. John is positive that sheís about to make him and his gorgeous wife potloads of money. But Johnís encounter with Janelle is yet another link in ďthe golden chain of circumstanceĒ that began to assemble itself from the moment John left New York to begin a new life in Northern California.

Things arenít necessarily what they appear. Lawrence and John learn hard lessons when both are blinded, first by lust and then by greed. Reluctant to consider the worst, John contacts the FBI, later enlisting the help of a private detective, his journey revealing an ominous connection to a girl with a sociopath's nature. While John is plagued with perpetual sleepless nights, Margot beats Lawrence at his own game, outflanking his ability to read the more subtle signs of her true nature as a player and a phony.

From the outset, the stupidity of Lawrence and John is obvious. In this tale seeped in the delusional, John and Lawrence's errors in judgment coincide with a world of danger and angst where a disconsolate girl drifts valiantly, her life devastatingly entwined to the fates of the two naive men.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2012

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