Rating: 3/5 stars
DISCLOSURE: I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own.
“I know her very well indeed, but we are not the same person in different bodies…some people think… Suppose that identical twins are no more than one person split into two halves… There are two of us, you know? We’re two different individuals…”
A high-profile case. A killer on a mission. A brazen detective with a reputation to uphold. An unrelenting media, spearheaded by the mysterious Hawk. A series of brutal child killings. A mayor feeling the pressure. A city’s terrified denizens, desperately seeking answers. Inexplicably, these forces diverge, resulting in an ambitious and engaging thrill ride from start to finish, culminating in several jolting plot twists and an end you won’t see coming.
Catherine Thornton was a complex character. On the surface, she was respected by her peers and was one of New York’s finest detectives, despite being just thirty-three years of age. Her defenses were in place, 24/7/365. No one, not even her partner of two years, Michael Trentini, could break those fortified walls.
Existing in a predominantly male workforce, she had more to prove than most, both to herself and her fellow investigators. In those moments, Natali wasn’t only writing about another cliched narrative; she had something earnest to say about a woman’s rights, their place in society, and the need to be strong willed and liberated.
There were parts of the investigation that were hard to endure; the epitome of a faint-hearted read. With that came a decent rendering of sadness and empathy. That was refreshing because, in my experience, mystery thrillers often lack heart. It was also impressive, given the vivid details. However, the lives of the victim’s and their families could’ve taken on a larger presence if they’d been developed further.
Throughout Two, there were fascinating elements, as well as interesting insights into the human condition. Parts of it harkened on the philosophical. What did it mean to be free? How was freedom achieved? And if one achieved it, at what cost? Were there sacrifices to be made? What was the truth? Whose truth? What made it true? Lines between reality and fiction were blurred.
Those questions were never explicitly asked, yet I felt their presence anyway, in ways that felt almost interactive. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it, and I doubt I ever will. They were subtle because Catherine’s development and the intricate plot took precedence.
The novel was those things, and so much more. It was primarily character-driven. There were elements of a thriller/noir mystery, in addition to feminine empowerment and a treatise on ethics in a professional setting, and morality in general. There were vibes of metafiction, post-modernism, and minimal paranormal activity systematically thrown in. It was psychological and erotic. At times, it bordered on a concurrent dimension. Nothing was as it seemed, reality was off-kilter, and in those respects, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
But the prose was unrefined. There were truly awe-inspiring moments (rare glimpses into the author’s greatness,) which were very appealing. I only wish those moments were consistent. Instead, there were incomplete sentences, comma splices, and awkward dialogue.
And while several scenes were clear, there were others that lacked clarity and/or exposition. Incidentally, almost nothing was “told.” Natali transported the reader directly into the character’s heads and “showed” the unfolding events. More exposition would’ve gone a long way, to the benefit of all. A minimum of one revision would’ve cleaned up a large percentage of its wordiness.
Verbose, yes, but simultaneously the whole was less than the sum of its parts, as a lot of pages contained very little words. Others were blank. The result was a much breezier, almost lighthearted read. Almost.
With those constructive criticisms in mind, it’s very likely that the author accidently sent me the unedited version. That would explain a lot. I know for a fact that she revised it at least once, and Catherine DePasquale was her editor. Another factor was that Natali is Brazilian. Unable to hire a translator, she painstakingly translated it from her native Portuguese to English. For that alone, I have the utmost respect and admiration for her.
“Robert felt shadows closing in on him, crawling into his heart, flooding his soul when he, once again, looked at Catherine.”
This was one of the hardest reviews I’ve written, because as the above disclosure indicates, Carla and I’ve known each other online (first through Goodreads and later as Facebook friends,) for five or six years. And though our communications were sporadic, we’ve always considered one another friends. Reviewing as such can be tricky. My intent has long since been to be honest and fair. I think I’ve done that here. The last thing I’d want is to sabotage our friendship by hurting your feelings; worse yet, to discourage your writing. I’d sincerely loathe that, Carla.
I wanted more from these characters. The chief of detectives, Tobias, along with Michael and some others, like Hawk and Dr. Roth. Mostly Catherine, though. We knew about her horrific childhood, and her father’s endearing qualities, and yet, I craved more. Like flashbacks to her high school days, followed by her experiences in the Academy. It would be interesting to see how she climbed the ranks, to know precisely how she became the infamous serial killer investigator. To recognize the good with the bad.
So while the story was quite dark, it was also surprisingly addictive, as Natali explored some serious issues with a refreshing depth of humanity and pathos. Combine all that, and she delivered an amplified precision of detail, visual stimulation (invoking all the senses,) and a tautly crafted plot. I genuinely cannot imagine what Two could’ve been, if it was properly revised and researched. With multiple rewrites, one inevitably discovers their artistic voice, and intimate insight into the characters; in turn, cement them in realism.
With a diabolical denouement that completely slayed me, this could have easily gone from a strong three stars to five. Easily.