One Way or Another by Lisa Adler

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On Lisa Adler’s website, she states, “In my books I often describe the clothes my women wear; their perfumes and scented candles; their sofas, pillows and beds and rugs, simply because it seems to me to tell you a lot about who they are. I couldn’t conjure up characters so well without those details and besides they are exactly the sort of intimate things you would know about a friend.”

As Angie sinks below the aquamarine waters off Fethiye, Turkey, she vows revenge on the ones who put her in her watery grave, one way or another. One Way or Another adds to Elizabeth Adler’s list of best sellers. Her novels are filled with romantic trysts and intrigue; she makes you feel as if you are in the middle of her scenes by describing the sights and smells that heighten the suspense of the story.

Artist Marco Polo Mahoney sees a red-haired woman fall into the ocean and tries to rescue her. He grabs his old orange inflatable and chugs out to where she went under. He dives and dives but is unable to find her. Marco reports the incident to the Coast Guard, but he has few details other than the girl’s red hair and the black hull of a yacht. A few days later, at his favorite bar, Marco notices the barkeep’s wife has a beautiful chain with a platinum panther around her neck. Artemis says she found the necklace on the beach. Martha, Marco’s girlfriend, recognizes the necklace as a signature Cartier piece. Martha offers to have a friend who works for Cartier try to trace the necklace by its initials, AM.

Marco never found Angie or her body, but Zacharias, a fisherman, did. He pulled Angie from the ocean and radioed for help. A black yacht, looking like a ship from the gates of hell, answers, picks up Angie and takes off, almost swamping Zacharias’ smaller ship.

Marco is still bothered by the incident with the red-haired girl, but after talking with Zacharias and hearing his story, Marco is at a dead end. Weeks later, he goes to the airport to fly off to Paris to meet Martha. The flight is delayed because of engine trouble and he meets billionaire Ahmet Ghulbian, who offers him a lift to Paris. On the flight, Ghulbian spins a tale about Angie’s drowning while trying to hire Mahoney to paint her portrait. When Mahoney refuses, Ghulbian asks Marco to paint his portrait. Ghulbian invites Marco to his country estate, Marshmallows.

All of the main characters come together at Marshmallows. Martha is invited to redecorate the mansion, and her sister, Lucy, comes along as her assistant. Marco is beguiled by Ghulbian and agrees to visit. Angie is hidden away in the mansion. Mehitabel watches over her and does Ghulban’s bidding.

The novel is told in third person. Adler tells Angie’s story in chapters devoted to Angie’s point of view, narrating how she met Ghulbian, how he seduced her with kindness and wealth, Mehitabel’s true role in the novel and how she finally escapes from her imprisonment.

This romantic thriller borders on noir fiction. While similar to film noir, noir fiction is, according to George Tuttle, an American sub-genre in which the protagonist is usually not a detective but rather a victim, a suspect or a perpetrator. Another characteristic of noir fiction is the use of sex to advance the plot. Adler has followed the basic premise of the genre without its hard-boiled detective characteristics. Ghulbian and Mehitabel are as creepy as antagonists get. We observe their maneuvers to keep Angie prisoner while at the same time Ghulbian pursues and woos Lucy just as he did Angie.

Martha, Lucy and Marco thwart Ahmet and Mehitabel’s evil intentions without really knowing what is going on. Martha and Lucy remodel the mansion while Marco paints Ghulbian’s portrait on his yacht. Adler skillfully weaves in the threat imposed by Ghulbian and Mehitabel yet simultaneously allows the protagonists to continue working for Ghulbian. The lure of high fees overcomes their distaste for the man and their misgivings.

It’s hard to say what attracts in the novel. There is a good story line for those drawn to plot. The characters are strong and well defined. Angie, for all her faults and predicaments, has a strong will to live. Lucy is an unemployed would-be actress, yet she’s clear headed and savvy about what Ahmet wants. The sense of place is excellent. It would be hard to imagine a mansion and its grounds more menacing than Marshmallows except for Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. And there is glamour; a signature Cartier necklace, two lavish parties and the jet-set life style of the rich and their employees entice the reader.

Adler has done a superb job of creating a mysterious yacht and eerie mansion for Ghulbian. She has given him the perfect cohort to help him with his nefarious plans. It is the feeling of noir fiction that distinguishes the novel from others and makes it worth reading. Enjoy! ■