Book Review: The Anatomy of Desire

Overall Rating: 4/5

Cleo Ray is a thriving fitness influencer who seems to have it all – a blossoming career, successful partner, and loyal followers. But the shocking death of 22-year old Beck Alden sets off a series of events that threatens everything that Cleo has worked for, forcing her to come face to face with perilous consequences and the ghosts of her past, ones she thought she had long buried away. A modern reimagining of the classic An American Tragedy, The Anatomy of Desire is a thrilling and evocative read that is sure to keep you enthralled from the very first page.

I have not read An American Tragedy so I went into this book with no real expectations. At first I was a little apprehensive since it is written in the style of documentary transcripts and I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy reading a whole book in a non-traditional format. Safe to say, I was wrong. As an ardent consumer of all things true crime, I was immediately immersed in the story, which plays out as a gripping true crime docuseries. It has all the building blocks for a great thriller – from illicit affairs to moral duplicity to religious and political friction, all set against the backdrop of LA’s glamorous celebrity culture. Moreover, the novel is written through a contemporary lens, drawing on several prominent themes around law enforcement, social media, and growing societal divides that dominate today’s conversations. While the plot may have been predictable (more so for those familiar with An American Tragedy and the original case), this was certainly compensated for by the well-executed concept and unconventional writing style.

Given the nature of the book’s format, there were certain story-telling elements that were gained and lost. There was more distance between the readers and the characters and consequently limited insight into the characters’ true psyche, however I felt that this removed perspective conferred an additional layer of mystery upon the plot, serving to enhance the suspense that permeates the narrative. A lot of the character development and growth seemed a little rushed towards the end of the book; that being said, I really loved the ending and felt that it elevated the story beyond a typical murder mystery.

I would recommend The Anatomy of Desire to anybody with an interest in true crime, mysteries, thrillers, and fatal romances. It is fast-paced and has plenty of twists and turns to keep you engaged through out. Thank you to Netgalley and William Morrow for providing me with an ARC. The Anatomy of Desire is out May 11th!

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