By Christine Mangan
Published by Ecco
I found this book pretty enjoyable, even if I didn’t like any of the characters – not one. It was just twisty enough that I had to keep reading to find out what happened in the past, as told from two different points of view, and what was about to happen. It was like one of those really annoying MTV reality TV shows that you just can’t stop watching even though you really dislike all of the people involved.
We start with a dead body, that at first seems pretty obscure, but later makes sense. Like everything else in the book, this lays the foundation of piecing together all of the clues sprinkled throughout. But, I have to admit, those clues are pretty obvious. Nothing really surprised me, and in fact, it was annoying to see that it was so obvious in places.
So, after the opening, where are we?
Set in Tangier in 1956, we meet Alice Shipley – a British citizen, married, and unhappily living in a foreign land because of her husband John’s “secret” job. She’s not exactly sure what her husband does but he may be working for the “government” – I don’t think she’s even sure which government. It is during this time that Tangier is gaining its independence from France, and the book hints that this could be part of John’s secret job – although John is an American. But then again, Tangier has always been known as the spy capital of the world, so maybe John is there for some other nefarious deed.
As far as Alice is concerned, however, the city is oppressive in both climate and culture. She’s regretting her marriage to John, and particularly his insistence that she accompany him to this part of the world, so far from her home and where she feels comfortable. But as miserably as she feels at the beginning of the book – things are about to get worse.
One day, out of the blue, Alice’s roommate from college shows up. Alice doesn’t seem particularly happy to see Lucy standing in her doorway, but whether out of manners or a feeling of obligation or guilt, Alice invites Lucy in.
At first it seems that Lucy wants to make amends for something that happened to cause the rift between them – again only hinted at, with the clues slowly building throughout the book. And if Alice is slightly wary, well then John is downright suspicious. It’s obvious from the moment that Lucy and John meet that they are not going to be friends – the animosity and petty jealousy between them is putting Alice in a pretty bad spot, and she begins to fall apart emotionally as things escalate.
As their past unfolds, Alice and Lucy tell their versions in alternating chapters and we begin to see how Alice – the rich, orphaned girl, and Lucy – the poor girl from the wrong side of the tracks, became so close that it’s difficult to see where one begins and the other ends – but maybe that’s exactly how Lucy wants it. Her manipulation of a feckless Alice is disturbing and sinister.
Now because this is a mystery, I won’t go into much more detail, but I will say that throughout I just wanted to slap some sense into Alice. I thought John was a complete ass; and by the end of the book I despised Lucy so much that if she had been a real person standing in front of me – I would have hurled the book right at her.
See, just like I said at the beginning – I did not like one character in this book!
One last thought – I was intrigued by the Tangier setting, and I really wished that the author had done a better job of bringing the city itself into the story. There were glimpses of Tangier, but I think with a city so rich in history and beauty I would have enjoyed feeling a little more immersed. Maybe we’ll get to see more of that in the movie version, because apparently George Clooney intends to bring this book to the big screen. Not sure I’d watch for the story, but I would watch for the setting.
If you are interested in learning more about Tangier – take a look at the wiki page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tangier
What are your thoughts? Have you read Tangerine? Please feel free to comment below.