Dark and intriguing…



Burning Desire:
The Psychopath and the Girl in Black Prada Shoes, Part I
by M. L. Stark

Dark and intriguing…

In Stark’s debut installment in the Girl in Black Prada Shoes trilogy, a middle-aged woman becomes prey to a manipulative psychopath. Fifty-year-old Mary is feeling insecure and unhappy: her husband of many decades Paul is unfaithful and living in Copenhagen with their children.

Alone in Spain, she starts seeing the charming Dr. Drake Lucifer Bates, a renowned doctor of complementary and alternative medicine, for a foot problem. It doesn’t take long for Drake to prey on Mary’s vulnerability. Needy and susceptible, Mary is drawn into repeated visits to Drake’s clinic and soon begins a full-fledged affair with him. As their relationship progresses, it becomes abusive and dangerous. Ignoring all the warning signals, Mary throws herself into the affair. On Drake’s suggestion she begins her divorce proceeding with Paul, unaware of the former’s sinister plan of feeding on her wealth.

Because the story is based on real-life experience, readers will sympathize with Mary and her struggles. The story gains more relevance, considering the fact Mary is not a young girl in her teens or twenties, but a mature fifty-year-old woman who has seen the world. It’s her neediness and desire to feel loved that makes her fall prey to Drake’s manipulative endeavors (their relationship stars after Drake forces himself on her during her first ever visit to the clinic). The novel’s pacing is uneven, and the writing needs polishing.

Sudden shifts in time period as she jumps from situation to situation while narrating her story hamper the flow of the narrative. But Stark skillfully construct a manipulating sexual predator in Drake in whom Mary finds a sympathetic listener who flatters her constantly. She becomes entirely dependent on him, alienating herself from her husband and family, and rationalizing away warning signals that arise. Mary comes out as a slightly unhinged narrator who consistently contradicts herself. Set in Macau, Bali, Spain, and Denmark with Mary at the center, this novel beautifully brings the setting and culture of each place. Graphic scenes of sex and violent rape as well as Drake’s manipulative ways, contribute to the dark atmosphere. Along the way, Stark skewers marriage, relationships, and infidelity. While the novel’s trajectory is predictable, Mary’s over-the-top gullibility and her impulsive actions are entirely believable. Despite its obvious faults, Stark succeeds in demonstrating how easy it is to fall under the sway of a charming predator.

The Prairies Book Review

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