A Sentimental Thief

The perfect book for me is one that reads like a film. But I should preface this by saying that my tastes in music, television and books are all pretty similar. I like to be taken to dark places.

front-cover-9780778315865-copyAveril Dean’s debut book, Alice, Close Your Eyes is aptly titled, because there are things in this book that will make you want to close your eyes.

If it were a movie, it would be an erotic psychological thriller in the tradition of film noir, and Lana Del Rey’s Born to Die would be the soundtrack.

Stay with me.

Alice presents as a woman who has everything. She’s financially independent in her own right. Street smart. At ease with the night and, admittedly, nursing an odd break and enter obsession.

We’re gripped from the first page as she runs her gloved fingertips over the well placed furniture of her latest target’s house, looking for the box containing treasures “of no value to anyone but me and the guy who collected them.”

A guy, we soon find out, whom she intends to seduce.

But what would drive such a woman to seek out a liaison with someone she already knows to be a dangerous man?

The need for an answer to this question drives us, along with Jack, into a rapid spiral of darkness that has us hooked to the last page.

There’s a sense of detachment as you read, that gets ever more chilling as you realise the reasons why Alice does the things she does.

Del Rey’s lyrics haunted me all the way through this book.

“You’re not good for me, but baby I want you, I want you…”

From the James Dean figure in Blue Jeans, to the crazy Ride Alice takes with him, it’s all there. The need to self-destruct.

A ceiling high painting of the raven on its perch, the rabbity pink of the albino’s blue eyes, the strawberry red spots of blood in snow are clues along the way, to a story unfolding like a Del Rey clip.

A chic, gritty, twisted paradise.

Alice may not be the one who pulls the trigger, but she is certainly the one holding the gun.

She is far from passive. She is a woman so much in control that even she doesn’t realise how much she craves letting go. Handing it over to someone bigger and more powerful. And she has good reason to want to.

She has the kind of history you like to think doesn’t happen to real people. Though you know it does. And that in itself is disturbing.

Alice is not just a woman on a mission for revenge or scary kinky sex. She’s a woman seeking to reclaim what was lost in childhood. A sentimental thief, in more ways than one.

The things Alice does are not pretty. But they are understandable. And this book neither redeems, nor judges. It simply bids us take a ride in Alice’s shoes.

Her story taps in to the nihilism of our present day world – the one Del Rey inhabits. It’s what happens when you get the dream that you’ve been living for, only to realise – too late – it wasn’t quite what you imagined it to be.

Alice’s world is a microcosm of what ails our society – the things we like to close our eyes to, which is another reason why this book makes for a compelling read.

As Del Rey says in the opening to her clip, “it takes getting everything you ever wanted, and then losing it, to know what true freedom is.”

Alice, Close Your Eyes is a film waiting to happen. You can picture every frame of it. And you can’t stop yourself from looking, even when you know it’s going to hurt.

If you want to take a ride on the dark side, then this book is for you.

Do you read to escape, immerse or be confronted? What does it for you, as a reader?


  1. says

    I read for pleasure. My Mum says that there are so many good books in the world, you will never have the chance to read them all, so if you aren’t enjoying a book, don’t finish it and find one you do enjoy. Alice Close your Eyes sounds like something I’d enjoy.

  2. says

    I read for all those reasons, and this book is right up my alley! No doubt about it. In fact, I’m so intrigued after your review I think I’m going to buy it this weekend! Dead serious. Thanks, Alarna!

  3. says

    It seems lately, all I’ve been reading is travel related (immersion).
    For escape, I also go to those far away places. Dark places, no. You write a compelling review, Alarna, and Alice sounds like quite the psychological thriller that lingers with the reader.

  4. says

    Oh, that Lana. I was just discovering her music while writing the early drafts of ALICE, and found that she could always put me in exactly the mood. Her voice is haunting and dangerous and seductive, the auditory embodiment of noir. I love that the book brought her music to mind. What a flattering association.

    It’s a good question you’ve asked, because I think the response to ALICE and books like it depends to some extent on what the reader is after when she picks up a book. I’m a moody reader and want something different every time. But what is consistent for me is that craving for a truly immersive experience, in which the world of the book seems more real than reality. My favorite books are the ones that take me somewhere else, especially if the characters seem only vaguely familiar.

    Thanks so much for this post, Alarna, and for reading!


    • says

      “Her voice is haunting and dangerous and seductive, the auditory embodiment of noir.” That’s it, exactly! Wow. I love that she was able to take you there.

      I’m a moody reader, writer, listener too. That definitely colours the way we experience the immersion. And, I guess, expectations have a lot to do with it. From reading your blog, I knew it wouldn’t be anything other than an intense ride. So I was more than ready when I delved. A pleasure to read, Averil. Thanks for writing. Don’t ever give it up! 🙂 xo

  5. liz says

    oh my gosh. i definitely need to read this book! it sounds simply haunting and gripping. i was hooked just by reading you writing about it. wow. and yes, i love to immerse myself in the darker, more controversial sides of life when i read. xx

  6. says

    Sounds chilling, indeed! I like darker books, too, but I can’ t deal with overly graphic images. But, there are times when I need to read lighter fare, so I guess it all depends on my mood.

    • says

      I agree, mood does have a lot to do with it. Whether I can handle graphic or not depends a little, as well, on the reason it is there – just plain gratuitous doesn’t do it for me. There’s got to be a greater purpose.

  7. says

    That sounds like a book you could escape into, cause that is what I do. I read books to take a breather from my life, to be in someone else’s shoes for a brief period of time, to forget what needs to be forgotten! Thanks for the tip. Will definitely try this one out.

  8. says

    Wow Alarna! I really want to read that book now!
    I think I read for all those reasons. Mainly to escape… I like books that bring right into another world, where I really feel I’m part of the story. That’s why I love books that are written with the first person. It’s as if the story was true.

  9. says

    “Do you read to escape, immerse or be confronted? What does it for you, as a reader?”
    I don’t read to escape. There is no escape. I’ve tried, but I’m always, always here.
    But immersion, now there’s a thing. I’ve been drowning in Gould’s Book of Fish, by Richard Flanagan. I’ve never lived in Tasmania, but my family’s arrival to this country was there, in the time this book is set. And it is filling me, with truths that may be based in lies, or lies that may be made from darker truths than any would care to admit, or even accept can be real.
    I’ve gone along in my life, comfortable with Cloudstreet being known as the great Australian novel, and described it that way too. Yet this book of Flanagan’s, it speaks dark and horribly clean, and is filled with more light than I can bear to look into, and shows me not just an Australia, but a humanity that is greater and more terrifyingly real than any other weight of paper I’ve allowed to crush me before.

    And Averil’s book awaits me, its dark beauty and seductive torturous promise, and the thing that confronts me is the depth, the gorgeous prison, it is our luck to feel it all if we only allow it, and that’s why it’s okay, why there isn’t a need to escape.

    • says

      It’s interesting what you say here. Now that you’ve made me stop and think about it, I realise that reading, for me, is a wholly immersive experience (as opposed to watching a program, which I do for escape). It’s why I don’t choose my reading lightly because, as you say, it has that ability to crush us with it’s terrifying truth. And I love the way a book can do that…”if we only allow it”. Yes.

      Now, of course, Gould’s Book of Fish is going on my Must Read list. Thank you, Harry. You’ve given me much food for thought.

  10. says

    Hmmm . . . that’s a good question at the end. I think I read for all those reasons except to be confused. 😉 I do also read to be informed. I’ve been into some nonfiction lately.

  11. lynnkelleyauthor says

    Wow! Excellent book review, Alarna. It does sound like it would make a good movie. I have a hard time with gory stuff and horror. I love a book I can’t put down, one that the characters will stay with me long after and one I’ll want to read again.

  12. says

    I like your choice of music/film. Film noir/mind-bending thrillers always remind me of David Lynch, whose “Blue Velvet” was covered by Lana Del Rey. Alice also reminds me of “Go Ask Alice”—it’s the name choice and your choice of words:

    “The things Alice does are not pretty. But they are understandable”.

    I read to immerse myself. A book is like deep water, and with each page I learn to swim.

    • says

      Love Lana’s Blue Velvet cover! Just looked up “Go Ask Alice” – an appropriate connection (especially given links to Alice in Wonderland). Though this is a different drug altogether 🙂

  13. says

    I read to track, listen for the slightest sound, sign, to dwell inside the fog to the fringe. The world here, and that world inside all of us, the company in what is different, not quiet right, both open, both closed, where characters rattle worlds to be heard, to be noticed, the thin tale to their existence.

    “Alice, Close Your Eyes”, sounds interesting for certain. Would you ride where ever her world is going?

    • says

      Dear Sean! Not sure how I missed your comment. “Where characters rattle worlds to be heard” – I really like this image. Books are the one place I feel the unheard (is that even a word? Oh well…) get to speak. Would I ride in Alice’s world? Not in real life, never. But I can be taken almost anywhere, virtually speaking 🙂

      • says

        Unheard, yes, it’s a word alright… Have you heard, what the unheard shared today, did you watch, as the unheard wrote every word in place. Perhaps notice how they walk their road, the unheard trying to have someone listen sometimes to stay, painting pictures in thoughts between each action’s moments, never sitting still regardless if unheard, but wide awake. 🙂

        I did mean in the fictional world of Alice, so much freedom to a readers’ or writers’ indulgent consequence. 🙂

  14. says

    I really jive with books, films, etc. that just let you go along for the ride. No morality tales, no cut-and-dry judgements, no characters who are either perfectly good or completely evil. Because that’s where literature meets life.

    Thanks for the review! I’m a new commenter here, and – dare I pun it – I’m glad to be along for the ride.

  15. says

    Wow, Alarna. Your descriptions have pulled me in and Mathair and I are chomping at the bits to get our hands on this one. You and Mathair have so much in common with your taste in books. She also prefers a book to read like a movie and can’t really sink her teeth into a story unless it plays out in her head. This one is definitely worth taking a peek at. We’re also a lover of dark tales and when paired with erotic, it’s a surefire winner. Thanks so much for the share. 😉

    • says

      My pleasure to share, Inion N. Mathair! I guess when the subject matter is dark it’s a good time to be taken by the jugular for a ride, otherwise you just might not go there. Happy chomping? 😉

  16. says

    hello, Alarna… how are things, hey? this is a well-thought out and well-written review, i so love it. wish i could write as clearly as you do, girl. is that true, are we seeking to reclaim what was lost in childhood? what happens when we do find it, are we then any ready, any better? does truth, in such case, set us free or it paralyzes? wait, i think i asked too many, ahaha. 😉

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