Jules Cartell graduates from law school at 22. By 28, she’s effectively controlling the Cartell Worldwide empire, usurping the family she’s married into. Her effectiveness is preternatural; she has charm, beauty, and formidable intelligence that appeals to men and women of power—including the handsome, married Jacques, owner of the exquisite Château Bergé. Jules’ readiness to humiliate and dominate anyone in her way has made her enemies. With mere days remaining in a careful sequence of events that will ensure her sole dominance at Cartell Worldwide and final dispossession of the Cartell family, danger emerges on all fronts threatening her success, and her life.
One great strength of Ryan Lawrence’s novel VINDICTIVE is how effectively the author tweaks perceptions of Jules over the course of the story. She is both the spiritual child of Patrick Bateman (see American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis) and Becky Sharp (the main protagonist of William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel Vanity Fair)—an intensely capable and genuinely unlikeable character. Her cruelty toward any weakness—in her emasculated husband Phillip, her sister-in-law, her employees, Jacques Bergé’s wife Marie—are enough to make any reader wince. But, as the story heads for its climax, we want Jules to survive. This satisfying, well-paced, switch of allegiance, is fine work on Lawrence’s part.
VINDICTIVE is challenged by several limitations that will likely resolve in Lawrence’s future work. Marie, Jacques Bergé’s mousy, sorrowful wife, feels less like a red herring and more like a character partially edited out. Lawrence sometimes leans too heavily on brand names to create the texture of wealth, power, and appeal. And the density of traitorous characters with violent backstories can at times, be a little difficult to track. These limits don’t inhibit the propulsive energy of this story of wealth and deception. From its slightly stiff opening, the momentum only builds. With satisfying completeness, every beautiful, sordid character feels betrayed. The larger-than-life drama with its dense plot, sex-in-cars, verbal take-downs, and mixed martial arts action scenes drives hard toward the final denouement.
Though a few uneven elements sometimes hamper its effectiveness, Ryan Lawrence’s VINDICTIVE is a genuine page-turner filled with sex, violence, quality perfume, classy dishware, and determined revenge.
~Ellen Graham for IndieReader