Saturday, August 20, 2011

"In Malice, Quite Close"

Brandi Lynn Ryder lives in the heart of Napa Valley.

She applied the Page 69 Test to In Malice, Quite Close, her first novel, and reported the following:
Pg. 69:
“Come in.” Crisp and clean, the words. Very like Tristan.

Luke went in.

“Ah. Luke. Comment vas-tu?” There was a little more silver in Tristan’s blond hair, or maybe it was only that the tan he’d brought back from Paris accentuated it. His pale blue eyes were paler. He looked well. Luke stepped into the vast, opulent room and shut the door behind him. The builder, prompted presumably by the reclusive Bryan Prescott, had made the doors and walls heavy enough to keep out invading armies. A small comfort when the enemy was in the same room.

Tristan smiled warmly. “I hear I am to congratulate you, mon fils. You must show me these paintings of yours. Then we will go into town and celebrate.”

Luke stared. He wasn’t sure what he had expected, but it wasn’t a celebratory dinner.

Tristan went on, “You’ve chosen an eccentric place to paint, n’est- ce pas? In the cellar?”

Luke braced himself by studying his father-in-law’s dress socks in detail. Paisley print, monochromatic gray. He cleared his throat. “Why don’t you tell me, Tristan?”

Tristan simply gazed at Luke in his aristocratic, unruffled way, but the eyes behind the wire rims receded. “Excuse me?”

“The room in the wine cellar. It’s your art studio, not mine.”

Tristan’s voice remained cool. “Well, I suppose the room is technically mine, mon fils, but you’ve never concerned yourself before with such things.” Funny, the way he said it, it didn’t even seem an insult. “You might have taken any number of rooms for a studio, Luke. We would have respected your privacy. I am a firm believer in privacy.”

The evasion was so perfectly executed that Luke was taken aback. Tristan must have rehearsed it on the plane. “Nicola found me in there. Otherwise I’d never— ” He floundered. “She just assumed I’d done them and was set on telling Gisèle.” An expression crossed Tristan’s face that Luke couldn’t decipher. Shrewd. Something more. “Ella believes it, too. And it’s better for everyone if she doesn’t find out that your concern isn’t exactly fatherly— ”

*Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from In Malice, Quite Close by Brandi Lynn Ryder. Copyright © 2011 by Brandi Lynn Ryder
I love the premise of this experiment – it echoes the philosophical notion that to truly understand anything, is to understand everything… This page is representative of the whole in certain thematic respects—identity, obsession, truth and illusion— though it contains only one of the four points of view in the novel.

The thread running through In Malice, Quite Close is the confession of French ex-pat Tristan Mourault: his seduction and subsequent abduction of 15-year-old Karen Miller (whom he christens “Gisèle”) from San Francisco in 1979, and their odyssey over fifteen years. The relationship is not what one might expect and surrounding (and embellishing) Tristan’s journal entries are three different perspectives of his present-day world. Gisèle, whom he has passed off as his daughter, is now thirty years old. She still lives with him but has married Luke Farrell, a weak man clinging to the façade of a happy family, the leisure of wealth and a deep-rooted need to belong. Accompanying his narrative is that of Gisèle’s daughter, Nicola, whom Luke doubts is his own, as well as Karen/Gisele’s sister, Amanda, who never accepted that her beloved sister died fifteen years before.

When a collection of nude paintings of Gisèle surfaces, it incites Amanda to search for the woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to her sister, and Tristan’s carefully cultivated world begins to collapse.

This scene takes place shortly after the discovery of the paintings. Luke, an aspiring but unoriginal artist, has claimed the unsigned nudes as his own— yet suspects the true artist is his “father-in-law,” Tristan and the paintings therefore evidence of incest or, at least, incestuous desire. Here he confronts Tristan, yet like many of Luke’s endeavors the effort is ineffectual. They fence with words and evasions on the frail landscape of their illusions. Clearly, this is a world in which nothing is as it seems…
Learn more about the book and author at Brandi Lynn Ryder's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue