A Book Spy Review: ‘Blood Orange’ by Harriet Tyce


Blood OrangeAccused of murdering her husband after she was found covered in blood next to his body, everything about Madeleine Smith screams guilty. Enter her attorney, Alison Wood, the narrator of Tyce’s riveting debut of physiological suspense, whose job it is to defend her client, even with the deck stacked against them. 

On the surface, Allison looks like the perfect mother and wife. In reality, she’s neglectful of her beautiful, young daughter and has been unfaithful to her husband. Prone to late-nights in the office, often spent having rough sex with her boss, Patrick Saunders, Allison finds herself leading a double life. A severe alcohol problem proves to be the proverbial cherry on top of her messy situation, though she’s somehow managed to remain a competent lawyer through it all. Now, after fifteen years, Allison is excited by the prospect of her first murder case, diving in with gusto even as her attempts to hold her life together begin to slowly falter. 

After being charged, Madeline is ready to plead guilty to murder, all but handing the prosecution a win. But Allison, upon hearing her client’s version of the events that took place, doesn’t believe her. The story takes a sharp turn when Allison begins receiving anonymous text messages, with someone using their knowledge of her toxic lifestyle as blackmail, holding it over her head with a promise to make her pay for what she’s done. Realizing that she can rescue a small part of herself by saving Madeline, Allison goes all-in on the case . . . but to find the truth, she’ll have to hold it together long enough to see things through, leading her down a trail of deception that she never could have predicted. 

Though there are small inconsistencies and a few issues worth pointing out, like the fact that Allison’s psychotherapist husband apparently doesn’t pick up on any of the major red flags surrounding his wife, overall, Tyce’s story is strong. Additionally, the plot is unique and moves along at a brisk clip, never providing a down moment for readers to comfortably set the book down. In today’s world, where the unreliable narrator has become all too common since Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl took the genre by storm, many authors have tried to emulate her success by offering similar storylines. Too many. Instead of following the masses down that same twisting, overbeaten path, Tyce severs up a fresh story that, while close enough to Flynn’s novel that it’ll attract readers who enjoy her work, scores extra points for its originality. 

While some have already compared Tyce’s first novel to A.J. Finn’s overrated but bestselling debut, The Woman in the Window, recent revelations about Finn’s dark, untruthful, and alarming past (not to mention that his work reads dangerously close to the film Copycat), make such comparisons rather off-putting in the wake of Finn’s (aka Dan Mallory) scandal.

The more accurate comparison, both because of the quality of her writing (Tyce can write circles around Finn/Mallory) and the plot itself, is to Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train and Alafair Burke’s 2018 New York Times bestseller The Wife

Incredibly well-written and hopelessly addictive, Blood Orange is a top contender for best debut novel of the year, and Harriet Tyce is someone to keep an eye on moving forward. 

Book Details

Author: Harriet Tyce
Pages: 352 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: February 19th, 2019
Book Spy Rating: 8.5/10



Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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