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Involving, page-turning, exciting, electric: how to describe Toronto writer Elyse Friedman’s new novel ‘The Opportunist’

“The Opportunist” by Elyse Friedman.“The Opportunist” by Elyse Friedman.

How we like to hate billionaires. Their fraught household dramas are irresistible to us bizarre people, particularly when it comes all the way down to who inherits the cash.

Toronto author Elyse Friedman greater than delivers with “The Opportunist,” a fast-paced thriller that hooks us from the beginning with its timeless plot: wealthy previous idiot falls for lady lower than half his age. Can his youngsters derail their father’s dalliance? However Kelly McNutt, the opportunist in query, a 28-year-old nurse freshly engaged to Ed Shropshire, her 76-year-old affected person, proves, at it have been, a troublesome nut to crack.

You are reading: Involving, page-turning, exciting, electric: how to describe Toronto writer Elyse Friedman’s new novel ‘The Opportunist’

Billionaire Ed has two sons and an estranged daughter. Whereas daughter Alana exhibits little interest in the household lucre, sons Martin and Teddy are one other story.

As the story opens, Alana, a lady her brothers mockingly name “Miss Morality,” has been ignoring their pressing messages concerning the menace to the household dynasty. When Martin flies from B.C. to Toronto and bodily blocks her decrepit Toyota along with his threatening Lexus (“I want to talk to you”), the one mom, sole help of her disabled daughter, yields to sibling stress. Cash talks and Alana wants the bonus her brothers have promised, if she’ll politely provide Nurse Kelly thousands and thousands in money to go away their father. Straightforward-peasy.

The category contrasts between Alana’s life and the household she fled couldn’t be starker. Throughout her go to to the household’s non-public island off Victoria, Alana is on the telephone fixing crises like flooded pipes and “Mr. Thompson is again on the town,” code for an additional rat sighting on the Toronto ladies’s shelter the place she works.

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Exterior her island cottage’s partitions exists an impossibly lavish life-style, the place preparations for Ed’s and Kelly’s wedding ceremony are underway. If there are warning indicators — and there are — they’re overshadowed by glittering luxurious: the huge island property, the servants, the simple entry to non-public jets, yachts and speedboats. There’s lots of booze, too, and Alana’s first unrelaxed days along with her clan embrace martinis and hangovers.

Anxiousness apart — households will do this to you — Alana may be very interesting. Caring, humorous, candid, she confesses that the one time she’d misplaced adequate weight to please previous Dad, she’d been in a interval of self-loathing, when “her 5 meals teams have been Bushmills, Benzedrine, Nicorettes, espresso, and the occasional piece of toast.” She is shocked, nevertheless, to see that the daddy she remembered as “Charleston Heston on steroids” has change into, post-stroke, “all linen and bones.”

Nonetheless, she feels no sympathy for the person who derided her childhood chubbiness. Was this the reason for their estrangement? Issues transfer so quick, there’s little time for reflection.

There are, nevertheless, hazard indicators. What’s with the fixed gunfire and the armed groundskeeper merrily capturing the island’s fallow deer? The boastful dismissal — a “paddle occasion” — of Indigenous protests over island treaty rights? The spooky previous visitor cottage from Alana’s childhood? All the opposite cottages have been painted in cheerful hues. Secrets and techniques lurk beneath the property’s shiny surfaces and communication among the many siblings simmer with not-quite-buried grudges.

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After which there’s Nurse Kelly. No trophy spouse, she’s a bright-haired, petite, quick-witted lady who practises yoga at daybreak, has transformed previous Ed to a vegan weight loss program and banned poisonous pesticides on the property. Alana pitches her buyout “mission” to Kelly, whereas admiring each her dextrous yoga strikes and her equally dexterous dealing with of her grasping brothers’ money provide. No go.

May she actually love the previous man? To his youngsters, that appears an enormous stretch. As the times roll by, Alana, more and more repelled and alarmed by the existence of the wealthy and murderous, turns into ever extra fiercely intent on revealing household secrets and techniques.

Because the plot turns into electrical, with extra twists and turns than her narcissist father’s psyche, Friedman’s flashbacks fill us in on Alana’s childhood, her mom residing “reluctantly within the lap of luxurious” (“It took her solely twenty years to drink herself to dying”) whereas explaining the absence of her beloved older sister, Lillian. Due to Alana, the previously shamed and fearful youngest baby, clues about her mysterious household historical past step by step floor — the sinister backdrop to her brothers’ deadly plans.

In thrilling, page-turning prose, Friedman’s good plotting and splendidly devious characters act out scenes of mayhem and energy struggles. “The world is a rotten place, stuffed with rotten individuals doing rotten issues,” Alana thought after her husband had left her and their daughter. Or is it? Her drama retains us guessing and, what’s equally vital, concerned, from first web page to final.

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