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The Face Thief: A Novel Hardcover – January 17, 2012

3.4 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Three alternating plotlines eventually converge in this psychological thriller. A woman sees pieces of her past as she tumbles downstairs, sustaining near-fatal injuries. Lawrence Billings, an expert in face-reading and body language, recognizes a young woman at one of his seminars as a skilled “player” in his own field but underestimates the potential damage she can do to his sexually rejuvenated, long-term marriage. And John Potash, happily remarried and relocated at midlife, is victimized by a skillful financial scam that he fears will threaten his relationship and his future. As the woman begins a slow and halting recovery, Billings’ rationalizations for his own behavior are laid bare, and Potash desperately seeks help from various quarters. Gottlieb (Now You See Him, 2008) portrays the male of the species as not acquitting itself well, particularly in terms of vulnerability to the female, as he plays with chronology and ties threads together with a final, ironic twist. Although short on sympathetic characters and occasionally confusing, this will appeal to those who appreciate psychological intrigue. --Michele Leber

Review

“Psychological depth and mystery cast in great sentences: the result is a suspenseful, beautifully achieved example of what happens when a serious novelist wants us to keep turning the pages.” (Francine Prose, New York Times bestselling author of My New American Life)

“A dark libido animates this novel that can’t be resisted. The reward is an intimate literary encounter with a force that is beyond good and evil, and turns the mystical screws behind our unfathomable human destinies.” (Walter Kirn, author of Up in the Air and Lost in the Meritocracy)

“One of those remarkable books that sneaks up on the reader, startles, and remains memorable long after the final paragraph is read.” (Bookreporter.com)

“A sublime thriller…an elegant and profound novel of memory, perception and reinvention.” (Salon.com)

“A taut psychological thriller… Not just a gifted storyteller, Gottlieb provocatively explores human relationships and the lies we tell ourselves and each other.” (Publishers Weekly)

The Face Thief pushes you down the stairs on the first page and never lets you get your feet back under you. Extraordinary characters… Gottlieb expertly guides you through the minds and emotions of the people who drive this crafty psychological thriller. This is a must-read.” (The Daily News)

“With words that trip smoothly across the page like stones skimming the surface of a still pond, Eli Gottlieb brings to life three main characters in the The Face Thief. … A mesmerizing read.” (Suspense Magazine)

The Face Thief is compulsively, irresistibly readable. … Page-turning.…Compelling…. Unparalleled sex-appeal… Gottlieb has a marvelous sense of suspense. ” (Shelf Awareness)

“Frightfully good…Gottlieb’s writing is strong.” (Associated Press)

“Gottlieb’s stunning structural dynamics, stylistic virtuosity, and shrewd reading of contemporary culture make for a compelling, thought-provoking tale.” (Sacramento/San Francisco Book Review)

“A fast-paced and compelling story.” (Library Journal)

“A remarkable book that sneaks up on the reader, startles, and remains memorable long after the last paragraph is read.” (Bookreporter.com)

“Jaunty... suspenseful.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“An effective study of the effects of greed on the human psyche.” (Romantic Times)

“Never dull.” (Daily Texan)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (January 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061735051
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061735059
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,710,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jared Castle VINE VOICE on March 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
There are some women you are better off not meeting. Eli Gottlieb released Margot, a lethal grifter: charming, devious and untethered by morality or guilt. She's as beguiling as Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction and as relentless as Cherlize Theron in Monster. Both of those performances came to mind as I followed Margot's path of destruction through the lives of Lawrence Billings and John Potash.

The pitch on the back cover sums up the story better than I could: "Blinded by their obsession, two men are conned by a charismatic and deeply deranged woman in this compulsively readable psychological thriller from the author of Now You See Him."

My only caution to you is that if you often read genre fiction, be prepared for an ending that doesn't wrap up neatly. This is a literary novel, and as such, you are treated to psychological depth and nuance not found in most newsstand paperbacks.

Gottlieb's narrative oscillates through time as effortlessly as a child on a swing. Exquisite descriptions are scattered throughout the book. I offer two examples:

[From page 29]: "Small brown spots high on her temples had recently appeared, as if Death, daubing with a brush, was getting in its first licks."

[From page 43]: "Irresistibly, her eyes slid lower. When they closed, she again found herself looking directly into the bright, fresh faces of the eighth-grade boys in her middle-school class.
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Format: Hardcover
Eli Gottlieb is not a prolific writer. THE FACE THIEF is his third novel in approximately 14 years. But what he lacks in quantity is more than equalized by the quality of his work. His latest is one of those remarkable books that sneaks up on the reader, startles, and remains memorable long after the final paragraph is read.

THE FACE THIEF is told primarily from the viewpoints of three different people. The main protagonist, if there is one, would be Margot Lassiter. We meet Margot just as she is experiencing a debilitating...accident? incident?...that places her in jeopardy from a couple of different directions as her past actions catch up with her. The narrative then moves backward in time and introduces two other characters living on different coasts of the United States.

One is Lawrence Billings, a successful New England motivational/instructional speaker on the downside of middle age whose shtick is interpreting facial expressions and body language for financial advantage. He meets a young woman at one of his seminars who retains him for private lessons and is slowly captivated by her. His attraction to her is balanced by the fact that he can "read" her, and the story is one that can only end in disaster for him. There is a neat twist here, of course --- actually a couple of them --- as Billings gets in trouble, but not for the reasons one might expect.

Some three months later, a newly-married education administrator named John Potash is awakened in his new northern California home by a telephone call inviting him to partake in a high-yield investment opportunity. The woman calling him promises a fast and rewarding return on his six-figure investment, cobbled together with contributions from his parents and his new wife.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Grade: C

L/C Ratio: 60/40
(This means I estimate the author devoted 60% of his effort to creating a literary work of art and 40% of his effort to creating a commercial bestseller.)

Thematic Breakdown:
40% - The art of the con
30% - Body language
20% - Relationships
10% - Mystery

The story of a con man - or in the case of The Face Thief, a con woman - can work in one of two ways. Either the reader gets attached to the victim of the con, or the writer pulls a Sawyer (as in LOST) and makes the con man a sympathetic character. Gottlieb does neither, and it kills the momentum of his literary thriller.

As a wordsmith, however, Gottlieb deserves praise. Much of The Face Thief revolves around the importance of body language, and he does a masterful job of translating visual subjects into detailed text without relying on a waterfall of descriptions.

Noteworthy Quote:
She was thinking that the secret of the universe was that everything lived apart from everything else but was connected by the bright, living fluid of eyesight. And in eyesight there were no failures or winters or famines. Instead, everything was perfect and extended forever in all directions like daylight.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"The Face Thief" is part-noir, part-character study in a narrative that is compulsively readable yet interestingly detached at the same time.

Novel opens from the point of view of a woman who is falling or impacting on something that will knock her out. Then it moves to Lawrence, a face reader, at a seminar who brings up an intriguing woman to demonstrate how he reads faces. Then it goes to John Potash, a recently married man, who is approached by a saleswoman for some kind of investing.

Soon we find out that the thing in common of these first 3 chapters is that the woman is the same person.

Margot is a fabulous character. Noir in that she's the dame who is just no good but the men can't seem to avoid being fooled by her.

An investigation into her accident brings out how she has affected Lawrence, John and now the investigator, Dan.

Author Gottlieb lays out the story almost matter of factly. Everyone has a reason to want to push Margot down some stairs. She's a manipulative con-artist. And that's how it becomes a character. We learn why and how John is trying to mitigate how he was fleeced. Or why Lawrence was trying to get her out of life. Or why Dan seems to want to save her.

The detachment of the narrative could be boring if it wasn't so spare and to the point. And Gottlieb doesn't waste the reader's time by making this novel 500 pages. It clocks in at an easy, read-in-a-night less-than-250-pages.

If it went past 300 pages, I might have been tempted to click it down a star but at 250 pages, it is a solid 4 star story that reads with the surrealism of a short story but with the details of a novel.
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