Parallel Lies – Stella Duffy (Bywater Books)

Buy it direct from ByWater Books or from our Amazon.com store – Parallel Lies
 

Hollywood bearding is nothing new, despite Tom Cruise and
Katie Holmes. Back in the forties, Barbara Stanwyck did it for Robert Taylor
and the next decade brought us Rock Hudson and Phyllis Gates. The premise, then,
for Stella Duffy’s Parallel Lies is not unique—but its frank, knowing
voice is.

Yana Ivanova is the biggest star in Hollywood, with a
beautiful mansion, a wonderful career and a boyfriend named Jimmy McNeish. Yana
even has a British personal assistant named Penny—who is really the one
Yana sleeps with. Jimmy doesn’t mind, however. He has his own life in his own
part of the house, and thanks to his proximity to Yana, his own career is
booming. This cozy arrangement is fine and dandy until the blackmail letters
start arriving. And then someone gets killed.

Narrated by Yana’s PA, Penny, Parallel Lies is a
witty, knowledgable look inside not only Hollywood, but inside celebrity
itself. Duffy paints a fascinating portrait of the intricate relationship between
Yana, Penny and Jimmy, as well as their manager, Felix. Even more interesting
is what happens when things start to unravel and everyone scrambles to pick up
the pieces.

Two neatly done twists near the end—one I saw coming and one
I didn’t—keep the reader guessing until the last page is turned. Who is sending
the blackmail letters becomes far less important than how everyone reacts to
them and the dangers they present, but the star of the show is Penny. Her
manipulation and machinations truly drive all the relationships here, and her
voice is magnificent. By turns cynical and hopeful, Duffy does a fantastic job
of conveying a woman who is in love with celebrity but hates it at the same
time.

What I kept re-reading, however, was the confrontation between
Jimmy and Yana, who suspects him of sending the blackmail letters. Duffy
captures this relationship truth dead on:

            “They
had both gone farther than each expected and were now

            standing
in a totally new place. That accidental leap from middle-

            of-relationship
via a huge fight to suddenly all-over. It happens

            every
day, every hour. Another couple bites the dust by letting the

            argument
go on just that five minutes too long, those three hundred

            seconds
that allow the withheld acid to spill out and corrode the

            shaky
ground on which they stand.”

Beautifully written. If you’ve ever been in a relationship,
you know this moment and Duffy gets every second of it right. Parallel Lies is
a wickedly enjoyable read, full of fat, juicy truths that anyone will
appreciate.

Except, possibly, Tom and Katie. 

Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler

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