“Pretty Things” by Janelle Brown opens with a puzzle, Lake Tahoe, veiled in the background, awaiting its purpose. The book is about a con, an enormous swindle. To be a truly great confidence set up, the victim cannot know it is a scam. However what happens if the scammer is being scammed as well? In “Pretty Things,” the lines drawn between the mark and perpetrator are blurred or even missing. This is also the story of a house, that house, that Stonehaven, that changed everything and everyone.
Brown presents this deception to readers in a series of alternating first person narratives so readers get impressions of people, places, and events from both perspectives. Nina is a con artist, a thief who watches the people who have things and want the whole world to know, the “Influencers.” They have things, so many pretty things, and they share it all on social media, begging Nina take inventory. Readers follow Nina into her world, get to know her, and understand how and why she got to her current place and situation. Nina also shares everything, her dreams, her fears, her plans, and her past. Vanessa, a spoiled rich girl, a Liebling, gives readers a view from the other side through her first person commentary. She talks directly to readers, lamenting her situation, living all alone in that great big house. To Nina, Vanessa presents as the perfect target. But in this set-up, nothing goes as planned, and unexpected events complicate the plan. Things go right and go wrong, very, very wrong.
“Pretty Things” keeps readers guessing what is the unexpected and what is a calculated diversion. The pace was relaxed but purposeful. I received a review copy of “Pretty Things” from Janelle Brown, and Random House Publishing Group. I found it compelling, deceptive, and entertaining.