Dark Thrill reviews: Santa Monica by Cassidy Lucas



What a fun, delicious, insomnia-inducing book this is. It had me at the title, call something Santa Monica, and I'm in. But clearly, Cassidy Lucas doesn't have the same positive connotation that I have with the place. Or is very good at exposing the Type A, high strung white woman darkness hiding behind the glorious facades. Mel just moved into this sun-soaked utopia from Brooklyn and also thinks the place is absurd. Her husband, Adam, dived right into his new home, transforming his body, think abs, and mind, think Zen. But Mel wants to hold on to her black clothes, her quirky letterpress business, her snarky ways. But she is surrounded by thin, fit, perfect 40 years olds like Regina. And Regina, well, is lying to her husband, deep into financial troubles that will probably land her in prison. 

The story starts when Mel lets Regina plan a workout class in her luscious back garden. The gorgeous, energetic Zack Doherty leads this class.

Now we know from the prologue that this adonis ends up dead. 

Zack is a Florida native of Mexican descent who passes as white. His half-sister Lettie is not so lucky; she cleans the houses of these women, trying to stay a few steps ahead of ICE. Zack, who doesn't want to have much to do with her, loves her son. When he causes an accident, he feels so guilty that he tries to find ways to cough up the money his sis needs. Enters Regina and that stupid scheme. 

You get the picture, these people are all in each other's lives, and all these lives are on the brink of collapsing. Mel thinks her husband is cheating and gets too close with Zack, Regina is trying not to be discovered, as is Zack, and Lettie's situation is the direst of all. 

Santa Monica is told through all their POVs, and especially Lettie is the voice of this book. With a crystal clear vision, she lays bare the privileged and absurdity of these women's lives. Lettie, the illegal, in danger of being thrown out of this paradise by agent Orange, is the heart of Santa Monica.

I could not put this away. These characters are so compelling, especially Mel and Zack, the situations so recognizable, the climate described so current; I love when a book uses a luminous tone and still discloses what is not functioning in the community/society.

The ending is genuinely satisfying, or if you liked Zack a lot, like me, bittersweet. Grab this; you won't regret it.


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