What the blurb says: “Judith Rashleigh works as an assistant in a prestigious London auction house but her dreams of breaking into the art world have been gradually dulled by the blunt forces of snobbery and corruption. To make ends meet she moonlights as a hostess in one of the West End’s less salubrious bars – although her work there pales against her activities on nights off.
When she stumbles across a conspiracy at her auction house, she ends up in a battle for her life. Alone and in danger, from the French Riviera, to Rome and Paris, all Judith has to rely on is her consummate ability to fake it amongst the rich and famous …”
This book has been compared to The Talented Mr Ripley and Gone Girl, and although I can see echoes of these books in the style of MAESTRA it doesn’t follow an established path, but rather beats its own rather original way into the genre.
Judith is not an especially likable character, but she certainly is interesting. When she discovers some shady practices going on in the auction house she works at, and gets fired for refusing to overlook them, she sees her carefully constructed life on the edge of the wealthiest social circles start to crumble. But when a client at the hostess bar she moonlights at offers her a weekend away, she starts to see potential for clawing her way back in. Things don’t go as planned though, and a chain of events are set in motion that transform Judith from a scheming social climber to a cold blooded murderer who will do whatever it takes, to whomever it takes, to get what she wants.
What I liked about this story is the unpredictable nature of the main character. She’s ruthless and cold bloodied, yet loyal and fiercely attached to any true friends she has. She’s also driven and smart – a flawless chameleon with a flair for reinvention – and takes risks so big and dramatic that it has you holding your breath.
Well written and fast paced, and with a scandalous peep into the world of art dealing and a liberal amount of sex, MAESTRA is a fun and enjoyable read.