by Cassidy Lucas
Published October 6, 2020 by Harper Perennial, HarperCollins Publishers
Rating: 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Genre: Mystery & Thriller
Published on October 6, 2020 by Harper Perennial; HarperCollins Publishers
On the western edge of Los Angeles is the gorgeous beachside city of Santa Monica, where the sun-kissed, wealthy residents seem to inhabit real-life California dreams. When movie-star-handsome heartthrob fitness coach Zack Doheny, is found dead on the floor of his gym, the tragedy shocks the elite community, especially those who’d spent many hours each week exercising with the charismatic trainer.
As the narrative flashes back to the months leading up to Zack’s death, it quickly becomes clear that things in this coastal paradise are not as glittering as they seem. Lettie – Zack’s secret half-sister and an undocumented housekeeper for the toned, entitled women of Santa Monica – holds her brother responsible for a horrific family accident, and desperately needs his money to prevent her deportation. Regina, type-A exercise addict and entrepreneur, will do anything to get out of debt and to claim Zack for herself. And Mel – a New York City transplant who finds herself forty pounds heavier and far more cynical than the lithe women of Santa Monica – discovers an electric attraction to Zack that threatens to disrupt his bond with Regina and upend Mel’s own marriage. As these residents of Santa Monica begin to crack under the stress of their secrets, one question hangs above it all: what really happened to Zack Doheny?
As addictively suspenseful as it is sharply observed, hilarious, and compassionate, Santa Monica is the rare novel that captures readers with propulsive storytelling alongside emotional urgency, irresistible characters, ambitious themes, and a vivid sense of place.
As a big fan of Liane Moriarty, I really loved this book. I’m always skeptical when a book is promoted as being like a major writer, but this one holds up! With multiple narrators, you really get a sense of each character in their own rite. Most of which are awful people but perfectly written characters. These women are your typical rich white California women who spend their money frivolously and their time at the gym. Not a one of them will think twice before stabbing you in the back. Mel from Brooklyn is trying to figure out how to be a “trophy wife” in Santa Monica while not losing her sense of self. Regina is married to a screenwriter who is married to his work. Lindsay is the woman in charge, who all of the other women secretly, and sometimes not so secretly, despise.
On the flipside, we have Zach and Lettie. Neither of them quite fit in. Zach is a trainer among the rich, but barely keeps a roof over his head. He has a desire to be an actor, and can hold his own in a crowd of the rich, but within the first few pages, we learn that he never will be good enough to live in their world. Lettie is an undocumented immigrant who cleans for these women and tries to make a better life for her son. Life has never been a walk in the park for Lettie and her son, Andres.
This book packs a punch. From the first page you are immersed in the devastation of Zach’s death to be quickly thrown five months back in time to see how the events unfold. It can be a bit graphic at times so I would not recommend this book to someone faint of heart. However, it is one of the best books I’ve read this year!
I want to thank NetGalley, Cassidy Lucas, and HarperCollins Publishers for the Advanced Reader’s Copy I received in exchange for an honest review!