Every time I read Still Life, and I have read it a couple of times, I am astonished how a book, a thriller no less, can still be so gripping, after knowing who the bad guy is. I guess, that is what makes a good author.
In a way, Still Life is a little bit like a mystery novel. Casey Marshall is hit by a car and wakes up to find herself in a coma. First everyone thinks it was just an accident. A hit-and-run. Soon Casey finds out that someone wanted her dead. Was it her friend and ex-business partner Janine, who is still pissed that Casey left their business to launch her own? Or was it her little sister Drew, the junkie, who gets her allowance from Casey? These thought cross Casey’s mind. She never suspects her friend Gail or her perfect husband Warren, though.
Casey and the reader find out who wanted her dead about halfway through the book. It is actually after that, that the suspense keeps getting higher. It amazes me every time. Given that you only know what Casey knows and you see her loved ones through her eyes, it was quite the surprise for me when Warren was revealed as the bad guy. Since Casey is super rich, he just wanted her money. His plan included wooing Casey, marrying her, insisting on pre-nup, staying married to her for two years and then hiring a personal trainer named Nick from his gym as a hit man.
Warren actually gets creepier and creepier towards the end. Telling Casey all about his plans to kill her, after the first plan failed and she ended up in a coma, and to marry her sister afterwards, who he then will have to kill as well, after a couple of years of marriage, so he has all the money for himself.
Speaking of money, Casey, the rich, beautiful, successful and smart heiress, never comes of as too perfect or even boring. Joy Fielding manages to make her a character you root for. You want Casey to get better, to fight her coma. You feel bad for her, when she realises that her marriage had been a sham. You can see the same thing with her sister Drew. You just can’t hate her, despite the fact that you probably should hate her at first. Drew, the screw-up, who drinks and takes drugs, always asking for money, raising a daughter and feeling like a bad mum.
Yet, due to Casey’s memories to their childhood – the mother a drunk, who didn’t even stop when she was pregnant with Drew and never cared about her daughters, and the father, a womaniser, who didn’t just sleep with pretty much every nanny the girls had, meaning they never had stability in their lives, but was also a pretty ruthless business man himself – you feel for both of the sisters. Honestly, despite Casey being the one in a coma, I mostly felt worse for Drew. Her lack of confidence compared to her perfect sister and the fact every one thinks of her as a screw up, made me connect to her. Not that I would consider myself a screw up, but I can understand her insecurities.
What I love about this book, other than Casey and Drew, is how Fielding is able to describe her characters, Casey’s feelings and in general Casey’s situation. The way she details that coma alone, is amazing. You really feel like you know what it would be like. The pitch darkness, the confusion, the hope, how Casey hears everything around her and her progress in getting better. I love this descriptive writing, it immerses you right into the story.
What do you think? Have you read Still Life? Did you like it? Let me know in the comments.