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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
If I were fortunate enough to be able to interview award-winning TV producer Lucinda E Clarke about her latest psychological thriller, A Year in the Life of Belinda Brand, my first questions would be “How do you do it? How do you so consistently and expertly manage to weave interesting new characters into the lives of your previous characters in exciting and new plots?” I suppose that skill might come from years of writing TV and film scripts, but Lucinda’s ability is mind-blowing. This time, in the fourth book of the “year in the life” series, the newcomer is Pamela, a literary book agent for my favorite character of the entire collection, Belinda Brand. Former cheeky brat Belinda is now all grown up and has become a celebrity novelist, while Pamela is looking forward to reaping the benefits of having been the one to discover her. When Hollywood decides Belinda’s book would make a great movie, together with Belinda’s best friend, Rosheen, the three women hit Hollywood but before filming can even begin, Rosheen goes missing. Though Belinda is worried sick, Pamela is unconcerned until shortly after, Belinda also vanishes. Whoa! What is a career-ending mess for Pamela becomes a nightmare for each of the young women and a wonderful surprise-infused plot for readers.
I think one of the reasons Clarke’s writing impresses me so much… apart from her clever plots, great dialogue, and likable, realistic characters…is her ability to keep me hooked despite long sections of reflective narrative. For many writers, long narratives border on too much tell and not enough show. That often alienates a reader. But for Clarke, those long, reflective paragraphs are the best way for us to get inside the characters’ heads. Once inside Belinda’s head, for instance, we see the cheeky, feisty brat is still very much alive and well, but she’s learned when to shut up! Or inside Pamela’s head, we know there’s more to her than her actions and words show. This method of revealing character is a hallmark of each book in this series as Clarke's handful of characters alternately take turns moving the plot forward through their reflections. Genius! As for the conclusion, far be it for me to spoil your enjoyment of another great story from Lucinda E Clarke, but I will say the ending was perfection and exactly what I’d expect from that cheeky Belinda Brand. What on earth do I mean? Read it and find out!