Julie Kenner’s previous two books in the Play. Survive. Win trilogy were non-stop action rides through New York City’s shopping district on a deadly scavenger hunt. I wondered how the author would wrap up this series without repeating herself, but never doubt a good writer. In a case of “art imitating life” – or in this case “art imitating art” – the hero and heroine of The Prada Paradox are actors making a movie based a previous Kenner book, The Givenchy Code, and portraying that books’ hero and heroine. It is an interesting conceit that wraps up this trilogy in a grand manner and provides a nice twist at the end.
Actress Devi Taylor is emerging from seclusion after having been brutalized by a stalker five years previously. She considers the role of Melanie Prescott (Mel, heroine of The Givenchy Code) the perfect role for her to end her hiatus. Devi’s co-star is her ex-boyfriend Blake Atwood, who plays Mel’s “protector” Matt Stryker (now Mel’s husband). Blake is determined to recover from the faux pas on The Late Show with David Letterman that caused Devi to dump him. He loves her and wants to win her back.
The basic plotline is this: Play.Survive.Win (PSW) is an interactive, online game taken into the real world by its deceased creator. Real world people are designated roles as Target (Devi/Mel), Protector (Blake/Matt), and Assassin. The “players” must win the game – which consists mainly of gathering and solving clues in a scavenger hunt through New York City – or they will not survive. Mel and Matt survived their “game” and now advise Devi and Blake, as they film the movie version of their story. They also receive help from story consultant Andy Garrison, who was forced to play PSW previously, but failed to protect his Target. He was, however, able to redeem himself by helping Mel and Matt “win” their game.
The Prada Paradox follows the general pattern of the previous books with the scavenger hunt and solving clues. Kenner also repeats her pattern of narrative switching from different characters’ points of view and into third person, which works quite well. Especially creepy are the chapters reflecting the actions and mentality of Janus, the stalker who terrorized Devi five years earlier, and who is now her designated Assassin. As in the other books, the action is non-stop, but Blake and Devi do manage to have some hot sex as they wait for more clues to arrive. Andy is bent out of shape when he discovers that Blake has pre-empted not only Devi’s role as Target, but his own role as Protector, yet continues to do his best to help the couple.
Even amidst all the action, Kenner manages to give her characters depth and I really understood how hurt Devi was over Blake’s blunder on Letterman, and his complete bewilderment at how she “over-reacted” to what he thought was a statement that would keep their love life private – typical male! The movie is Blake’s first acting role and he is not as press savvy as Devi, who spent her whole life in front of the camera.
I loved the clever dialogue both between Blake and Devi, and Devi and her fun friend Lindy. Devi and Lindy’s retail therapy for heartbreak is one with which many women can identify, I am sure. Devi’s interior monologues, with her identification of people as Barbies that Mattel never thought of, were lots of fun.
The Prada Paradox is a whole lot of fun and manages to bring a fresh twist to a terrific series. Its only flaw is a slightly saggy middle. Do yourself a favor and get all three and read them in order, so you will get the full enjoyment from both the characters and the plot twist at the end.I did not see this one coming, which is unusual for me and a nice change!
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