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on 27 February 2017
Good story

Would recommend.
But don't like being forced to write a review before I can exit this application. Enjoyed the book though.
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VINE VOICEon 20 February 2010
`Die a Little' is told from the perspective of Lora King, young school teacher whose brother Bill marries the glamorous wardrobe assistant, Alice. The story takes place in 1950's LA, and is reminiscent of a plotline found in Raymond Chandler's noir novels. Lora becomes increasingly suspicious of inconsistencies in the stories Alice tells about her past and she decides to do a little digging of her own. As Lora becomes increasingly drawn into the seedy underbelly of LA and a young acquaintance is murdered, she must make some difficult decisions.

I quite enjoyed `Die a Little', it remains fairly subtle and the violence and other adult themes are never described gratuitously, which makes a welcome change. That said, it isn't a novel that will set the world on fire and I felt it trod fairly similar ground to the film LA Confidential. It'll pass a few hours...
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on 10 February 2015
I've always loved the works of Raymond Chandler. Philip Marlowe was never really the kind of character you'd think of if you were after a hero, but he always got the job done and I admired his effortless cool. I clearly wasn't the only one, as major writers such as Stephen King and Dean Koontz have attempted to imitate his style.

Now we have Megan Abbott, who is attempting to do the same; rather bravely for a debut novel. However, it appears that she is also a devotee of the works of Chandler and Dashiell Hammett and has learned much from them.

Bill and Lora King are a pretty ordinary pair; he an investigator for the District Attorney and she a school teacher. They are as close as a brother and sister can be, until Bill meets and marries Alice, who was a seamstress for one of the Hollywood studios. Everything seems wonderful, Alice making house and Bill seeming happier than ever, but Alice comes with a past which is at odds with her new life and things keep appearing that makes Lora wonder who this Alice really was before she became Mrs King.

Despite it being the kind of thing she would never do and despite a distrust of the world Alice has seemingly come from, Lora decides to dig a little deeper into things. She worries that if anyone but her uncovers Alice's past, it may damage her brother's reputation in the D. A.'s office and ruin his career, if not his whole life. But on the way, she encounters some quite unsavoury characters and situations and it may be her own life that is affected by her investigations.

I loved the way Abbott drew me into the story by making the whole thing seem so plausible. Whilst the setting was always 1950s Hollywood, this ensuring that I was always aware this was a novel, the way the characters acted always seemed completely real. You wouldn't expect a school teacher to suddenly become a convincing private eye and to be shooting it out with the bad guys and that never happened here. Lora King was someone who needed to work hard to find out what she knew and who stumbled across clues and used what she knew to make them work for her. There was no point where things happened in unbelievable ways; Abbott always wrote with one eye on who Lora King actually was before her suspicions were aroused and it made it more real and more gripping.

Abbott was always true to her own roots in the story as well. The 1950s setting was strictly adhered to, which made the main characters, being female, almost secondary in parts of their lives, as women of that era would still have been expected to be. Even the main characters, as strong as they were underneath, were little more than objects when it suited the men and some of the things that happened that would be frowned upon today were quite commonplace throughout the novel. I particularly enjoyed some of the phrases which you always seem to hear in 1950s books and films. Although the one which stood out for me was when Abbott describes someone's expression as "her face a hieroglyphic", a phrase I adored from the first reading and which, even now, can mean something different every time it occurs to me once more.

Abbott's pacing was incredibly impressive, seeming to fit an awful lot of action and intrigue into what is a relatively short book, in much the same way as Chandler always used to. The setting up of events is covered fairly early on and from there, pretty much everything that happens is of significance, even if it's not always immediately obvious. Abbott is weaving a tapestry, but she's doing it at pace and something new is always potentially around the corner, up until the final act which, masterfully, Abbott has ended in a final nod to Chandler, with a sigh rather than a scream.

For all the influences and the nods to Raymond Chandler, however, Abbott does fall slightly short of matching his style. Whether it's because of the female lead and the way you see her treated, or even because Lora King is not an intentional investigator like Philip Marlowe, but "Die A Little" lacks the ultimate cool of Chandler. The narration is a little more rushed rather than completely controlled and King can be flustered in a way Marlowe so rarely was.

However, it is only by comparison that Abbott's work can fall down in any way and even then, it's only a pace or two behind one of the greats of the genre. What Abbott has given us, and this seems even more impressive considering it's a debut novel, is a tantalising glimpse into a world we can never hope to know but, like Lora King, cannot resist delving into to find out more, regardless of the cost to ourselves. In my case, this cost was a couple of nights without sleep; what will it cost you?

This review may also appear, in whole or in part, under my name at any or all of www.ciao.co.uk, www.thebookbag.co.uk, www.goodreads.com, www.amazon.co.uk and www.dooyoo.co.uk
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on 7 September 2008
I loved this book and am looking forward to it coming on to the big screen. its a crime novel but from a different angle. it goes along at quite a slow pace but that fits with the story
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on 22 September 2008
My first reaction to this was "Does the world need another Raymond Chandler-esque mystery?" But I'm glad I persevered with this novel because it is an excellent study of obsession and how far someone will go to justify their actions. Lora, the narrator, starts the novel as a perfect small town high school teacher but her unrequited incestuous love for her brother, and her jealousy of his new wife leads her to unimagined depths of criminality. Her descent, coupled with her conviction that all her actions are for "the right reasons" make riveting reading when set against the familiar film-noir landscape of 1950s southern California. Reviewers who complain it is "slow" are missing the point that it's not about the plot but the character and her reaction to events. A great novel for Book Club discussion, not sure that a movie version will be any good if it stays true to the original.
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on 5 August 2008
Have you ever heard someone say "they don't make noir crime novels like they used to anymore"? No I dont often either, but actually they do and I have to say the first Megan Abbott to get released in the UK is some of the best `noir' I have read. Can I also at this point add... how fabulous is the cover, very glam.

In case you are wondering what noir crime fiction is here's a lovely definition from Wikipedia "In this sub-genre, the protagonist is usually not a detective, but instead a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator. He is someone tied directly to the crime, not an outsider called to solve or fix the situation." Noir was also big from the 1930's until the 1960's and this book is set in the fantastic era of the 1950's Hollywood glamour era, with some scenes featuring Doris Day in the background.

In this story the protagonist is Lora King, a school teacher who is quietly happily sailing through life with her brother until he meets and marries Alice Steele. Alice is a beautiful Hollywood wardrobe assistant, but for some reason Lora doesn't trust her and even thought her brother (a junior investigator for the District Attorney) trusts her and misses Alice's inconsistent tales of her past, Lora believes there is more to meet the eye. Lora decides to investigate her sister-in-law herself taking her into Hollywood's underbelly a world of sex, murder, drugs and prostitution.

I absolutely loved this book and happily devoured it in two small sittings. I like a good crime and this had lashings of murder, mayhem and mystery. The other major thing, bar the era in which it's set, that I loved was the characters. Lora starts of as a sweet teacher who is drifting merrily like a Doris Day character through life but as she uncovers more and more of Alice's past an inner femme fetale is released inside herself which is an interesting tale along side the mystery. Alice is amazing, I loved the fact that she had this dark past that you felt she was still visiting every now and then but the rest of the time she was getting involved in charity gala's and cake baking alluding to the perfect wife. A character that I particularly loved was Lois, a friend from Alice's past, who is hapless and always almost lets something slip, and I loved her story. The men in the book take a slight back seat Bill is a besotted man who cannot see anything wrong with his wife, however Lora's lover becomes quite a rogue love interest that you don't quite trust with his hidden depths.
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on 31 July 2015
Amazing. Queenpin might be marginally better, but this has the same powerful, complex and intriguing female voices. Where Queenpin has lesbian undertones, this has incest undertones, and it's so great. It's great. Everyone should read Megan Abbott.
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on 12 October 2016
Too concentrated; too frantic; too depressing. But a talented writer who should lighten up a little.
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VINE VOICEon 17 September 2012
I encountered Megan Abott for the first time via Dare Me, which I got on Amazon Vine and was bowled over by the virtuoso characterization and the stunning prose. I wanted to see what her debut novel was like so I downloaded Die a Little on Kindle - and well, the only word I can find to describe this writing is electrifying. The setting is 1950s, 1960s Hollywood, the style is Noir of the type you see in movies like L.A. Confidential [1997] [DVD], so I suppose some readers might expect wham bang action. But no this is a character study, insightful, dark, searching; the period detail and description is luscious and the words electrifying. I couldn't put it down (which is no mean feat because I was using Kindle for PC). I was almost disappointed when the story ran its course and threads began to weave. There was a hurriedness to the ending and I would have preferred it to stay the character study course instead of venturing into thrillerdom - but it was such a satisfying read it's definitely five stars from me. Megan Abbott, you might just be my new favourite author. Off to download another Megan Abbott book.
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on 21 September 2012
This is one of those books you read just to find out what happens at the end, not because your particularly enjoying it, which is a shame because I really enjoyed "The end of everything".

It tells the story of a young woman trying to discover her sister-in-law's dark secret. The fact is she makes such a big deal of everything, in some places it just seems comical. It isn't very realistic and the characters aren't human enough to provoke any kind of empathy for them.

The actual style isn't that bad, but the story is boring and drags on, and on, and on...There isn't very much movement, the scenes are vague at best, and it just all seems to clean.

Truth is, there must have been something there to make me want to get to the end, but I just can't put my finger on it.
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