Reviewed by Geoff Nelder
Who Is Alice?
By Miranda Manning
Dublin, 2013, ISBN 978-1842235850
Love is blind, vengeful and disastrous, until you win.
This debut novel is a thriller in spite of the contextual setup, which begins as a typical case for Nicola, a social worker, but which rapidly escalates into the high drama of dire threats from an apparently untouchable senior politician. A woman finding herself locked out of the apartment she’s occupied with a married man isn’t unusual. However, when Nicola encounters not just denial, but dirty tricks and attempted murder by Ireland’s highest ranking politician, then she needs nerves of steel and help, which comes from a senior policeman, a refuge that offers more than shelter and a call girl.
Male readers may squirm initially as every mother in this novel had a partner who deserted her, sometimes with violence, and even our main protagonist, Nicola, has a doped-up loser as a soon-to-be dumped boyfriend. What’s the female equivalent of a misogynist?* Not to worry, charging up on their white chargers come good men to restore the bad men, good men balance.
If I have an issue with the characterization in Who Is Alice? It is with Alice herself. Although she says to Cassandra, the high class call girl, that in a way she was also a prostitute because she allowed her lover to enjoy her for sex while she lived in the home he provided. Of course in some ways we all prostitute ourselves, but it seems to me Alice hardly touches the moral and philosophical aspects of what she did. She was an au pair to a wealthy and influential family with children. She becomes the father’s lover, which in itself needs explaining. I understand that chemistry can outweigh convention and logic but she seems to think that it’s fine to have children by a married lover, live a life of Riley in a luxury apartment, enjoy private health and education for her children, endanger the other marriage and then demand the whole of the apartment when it’s over. Agreed the man is beastly and evil, but why doesn’t she know this for 13 years even though her own children insist he never cared for them? Something’s not right. In the UK even a legitimate wife is only entitled to half of a joint wealth when divorced so why should Alice and her team assume without question that she’s entitled to her lover’s apartment? No doubt there are arguments but I didn’t find them convincing – maybe other readers will.
Don’t be put off by the above, the novel has many exciting twists and the ending carries a brilliant poetic justice.
Thrillers have a hook to grab the reader’s attention and page-turning action which this novel has. More. There are legal intrigues in here where our main characters take on big business and politicians in the courts to fight for the right to have adverse possession, which relate to squatters’ rights. It’s rare to find a story of social work so thoroughly researched yet easily put over. Rare to find an almost chick lit ease of reading with so many female leads but with grit and tension.
I recommend this unusual and intriguing novel to readers of sociological interest, thrillers and aficionados of anything Irish.
*misandry is the hatred of men equivalent of misogyny
About the reviewer: Geoff Nelder has a wife, two grown-up kids, an increasing number of grandkids, and lives in rural England within an easy cycle ride of the Welsh mountains. He taught Geography and Information Technology for years until writing took over his life. Geoff is a competition short-fiction judge, and a freelance editor. Publications include several non-fiction books on climate reflecting his other persona as a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society; over 50 published short stories in various magazines and anthologies; thriller, humour, science fiction, and fantasy novels.
2005: Humorous thriller Escaping Reality. Republished 2013.
2008: Award-winning science fiction mystery with hot-blooded heroine, Exit, Pursued by a Bee.
2010: Another thriller received an Award d’Or from an Arts Academy in the Netherlands. Hot Air. Republished 2012.
2012: ARIA: Left Luggage science fiction apocalypse. Voted Best science fiction novel of 2012 at the P&E Readers’ Poll.
Geoff’s website: geoffnelder.com