Book Review: Double Exposure by Ava Barry
With one seemingly simple comment from one character to another, Ava Barry perfectly captures the heart of her newest thriller, Double Exposure:
“Double exposure. A broken piece of film. Damaged imagery, you know?”
Double Exposure is a cat and mouse mystery where the role of the cat and the mouse are constantly interchanging. Set in the hills of Los Angeles, a private investigator with a haunted past, Rainey Hall, is hired by a young woman who is equally as haunted. Melia van Aust fled LA after witnessing the vicious murder of her parents and disappearance of her brother – the same brother suspected of committing those crimes. Now, four years later, Melia has returned to LA in an attempt to reclaim her family’s fortune. The city of LA, however, is not as welcoming as expected. Melia fears that someone has been waiting for her return and that person is now ready to strike. With her brother still at large, this fear is what triggers the hire of Rainey and her investigative team. Barry’s novel sets forth following Rainey Hall’s investigation, yet in uncovering Melia’s past, Rainey places herself right in the present line of danger.
A flame ignites from the first meeting of the two women, and as the investigation progresses, Rainey continues to grow closer to her client. However, as their personal relationship strengthens, Rainey’s grasp on the van Aust murders deteriorates. Rainey is continually picking up puzzle pieces but finding herself unable to make them fit with Melia’s narrative. She senses that Melia is hiding something, or even someone, and may be a danger to herself. Rainey begins to question Melia’s motives and if she really is a victim after all.
“I couldn’t deny the darkness in Melia, something that lingered beneath the surface and showed itself in quiet flashes.”
As Barry brings the reader on this twisted path to the truth, she also parallels the storyline against the city of Los Angeles. The LA landscape is continually referenced throughout the novel, painting a picture of something beautiful on the surface, yet broken on the inside. As the investigation and Rainey’s grasp on reality begin to fracture, so does the portrayal of the city around her.
“I no longer saw the city as a dense jungle paradise, drunk on the smell of blooming flowers. It was a dirty backyard filled with discarded toys. Summer had killed nearly everything, and as I slowed against traffic, I caught glimpses of fractured lawns, the same color as peeling skin.”
Barry cleverly juxtaposes the essence of LA and the feelings that the architecture and atmosphere evokes into the entirety of the storyline. The imagery of the city and structures within it – cold mansions of glass and stone, overgrown gardens of weeds and wildflowers – all become the backbone on which her characters rest.
Double Exposure manages to surprise the reader from start to finish, with a twist I would have never predicted – and I’m not one to often admit that. All in all, this book is a great find for any psychological thriller enthusiast. I want to close out this review the same way I opened it, with a line from the book that elegantly encapsulates everything Double Exposure has in store.
“Nothing lasted forever, especially not in Los Angeles, where each decade slipped in to replace the one that came before. The city was a blank canvas, an empty memory, waiting until sunrise to reinvent itself anew. It was a city that encouraged stories, pretty lies, new names, smokescreens and disguises.”