Monday, August 30, 2021

Just One Look by Lindsay Cameron

Just One Look
Lindsay Cameron
Published July 27, 2021 by Ballantine Books

A young woman's escalating obsession with a seemingly perfect man leads her down a dangerous path in this novel of suspense brimming with envy, desire, and deception.

Eyes aren't the windows to the soul. Emails are.

Cassie Woodson is adrift. After suffering an epic tumble down the corporate ladder, Cassie finds the only way she can pay her bills is to take a thankless temp job reviewing correspondence for a large-scale fraud suit. The daily drudgery amplifies all that her life is lacking--love, friends, stability--and leaves her with too much time on her hands, which she spends fixating on the mistakes that brought her to this point.

While sorting through a relentless deluge of emails, something catches her eye: the tender (and totally private) exchanges between a partner at the firm, Forest Watts, and his enchanting wife, Annabelle. Cassie knows she shouldn't read them. But it's just one look. And once that door opens, she finds she can't look away.

Every day, twenty floors below Forest's corner office, Cassie dissects their emails from her dingy workstation. A few clicks of her mouse and she can see every adoring word they write to each other. By peeking into their apparently perfect life, Cassie finds renewed purpose and happiness, reveling in their penchant for vintage wines, morning juice presses, and lavish dinner parties thrown in their stately Westchester home. There are no secrets from her. Or so she thinks.

Her admiration quickly escalates into all-out mimicry, because she wants this life more than anything. Maybe if she plays make-believe long enough, it will become real for her. But when Cassie orchestrates a "chance" meeting with Forest in the real world and sees something that throws the state of his marriage into question, the fantasy she's been carefully cultivating shatters. Suddenly, she doesn't simply admire Annabelle--she wants to take her place. And she's armed with the tools to make that happen.

3 Stars

Unreliable narrators are my jammmmmm. Seriously, I have never found an unreliable narrator I didn't like. They are often so smart, but a slave to whatever makes them unreliable, be it alcohol, drugs, mental illness, etc. I love a good fiction novel with a character off the rails. In this case, Cassie Woodson is a disgraced lawyer who had a bit of a mental breakdown that went viral. Using any lie she can she's found her way into a new, temporary job, but she wants to make her position permanent, permanent with one of the lawyers she's obsessed with that is. His emails draw her in at first, but soon she's looked him up everywhere she can, going so far as to imitate his wife in her style choices. Her favorites are now Cassie's favorites, it's just a matter of time before Forrest Watts falls for her too.

Just One Looks is a lot like You, albeit a bit less dramatic in some ways. Unlike You, we don't have nearly as much of Cassie's background so her slip into obsession is jarring. What she sees as the truth is all we see, it's only in the unraveling that we learn the truth. Cassie can keep a job, she even makes a new friend, but with alcohol fueling her late nights she soon is tumbling, losing track of her lies and her on goings. Like most unreliable narrators, common sense goes out the window and Cassie makes some questionable choices. How she didn't get caught or revealed sooner is beyond me, but boy was it entertaining to read. Then, Lindsay Cameron throw a complete twist in there and the finale of this novel is explosive.

Just One Look is a fast-paced drama read with just a bit of thrill. There's a lot going on in this book, some of it leave some holes in the plot that, for me, just really irked at me. I want all the facts, even if its from an incredibly unreliable perspective. I loved Cameron's twist, but I almost needed more of it to really turn this book into a total winner for me. She hits it out of the park with the creepiness and obsession though, if you love a good stalker read, Just One Look is it for you.

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