Ladies of the Canyon is a gripping psychological thriller about the intertwined lives of two women dealing with the pressures of fame and success- whether previous or present. Nikki Barnes is a has-been actress who recognizes herself in Devon O’Keefe, a TV star who feels as if she is slowly losing her sanity. Nikki invites Devon to her crumbling mansion in Laurel Canyon. Devon finds herself getting entangled within strange situations in the house, questioning her behavior and Nikki’s behavior at every step.
This story was particularly interesting because of the way it managed to subvert my expectations. Although it has many elements of a traditional thriller- sudden twists, a breakneck pace, and cliff-hangers, there are also many moments that you simply cannot see coming. Even though some mysteries are revealed early, the motive is held back till the last moment- creating a suspenseful and refreshing plot. There are a lot of secondary characters in the story, but it doesn’t get confusing because all of them are unique and make substantive contribution to the plot and character development. There’s also some moments that feel tongue-in-the-cheek, almost poking fun at the film industry. I was even reminded of the neo-noir classic film, Mulholland Drive, with the many parallels: Hollywood fame gone wrong and two women dealing with misadventures and their consequences.
Despite the underlying dark humor that creates a wonderful contrast to the thrilling plot, this book also deals with some serious issues. Nikki and Devon have both faced addictions, eating disorders, and problematic backgrounds. Nikki shares her issues with depression and loneliness, and Devon recognizes her need for help and company, having been through it herself. Their struggles make their unlikely story more believable, even endearing and relatable at times.
This is a dark story, with mentions of self-harm and substance abuse that could be triggering to some readers, but it’s also a fulfilling story. Even though it doesn’t necessarily end neatly and with a happy ending, it feels like a rewarding ending, and a realistic one. As realistic as one can get with a Hollywood thriller, of course. Douglas Wood is a masterful author who can create an all-encompassing and super-creepy novel. I look forward to reading more of his work.
Pages: 204 | ASIN: B08FYRGJ36