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Early reviews have compared debut novelist Christine Mangan to masters of the psychological thriller, such as Alfred Hitchcock, Daphne du Maurier, and that most sought-after analogy, Gillian Flynn. They’re not completely wrong. TANGERINE, set in the steamy Moroccan city of Tangier on the eve of its independence from France, has mystery, betrayal, psychological war games, and, of course, a parade of characters whose motives are both conflicted and often obscured, even from themselves.

The story opens at an asylum in Spain where a woman is trying to compose her thoughts, hampered by the fog that clouds them. She is troubled and paranoid, remembering her past in Tangier with both nostalgia and distaste. Then we are back in time, in Tangier, where Alice Shipley lives with her husband, John. He goes to work each day, but mostly lives off his wife’s trust fund. Increasingly, their lives are separate, as Alice struggles with her dislike of the city that has kept her captive in her peaceful apartment. Slowly the reader learns that a trauma the previous year has left her with feelings of anxiety and depression, and that perhaps her marriage to John and move to Morocco were a failed attempt to escape them.

"Mangan is not afraid of giving her characters plenty of room to explore their motivations and, just as important, the perceived motivations of those around them."

Enter Lucy, Alice’s college roommate and onetime best friend. Whatever happened the previous year implicates her, but why is not clear until the denouement. Lucy is a complex character who, in Alice’s mind, is “the most beautiful woman I ever met.” An orphan, she went to Bennington on a scholarship and arrived in Tangier having saved her salary from the job she got after graduation. Why she is there is not entirely clear.

As soon as Lucy meets John, the two are wary of each other’s intentions. Nevertheless, John suggests she move into their flat, and she accepts. The rest of the novel, alternating between the perspectives of Lucy and Alice, depicts the dance among the three --- and the willful misinformation that each conveys to the other. Is John a protective husband and a hardworking agent of a British company, as he suggests? Is Alice a devoted wife whose past tragedies are behind her? And is Lucy visiting her friend in order to revive their earlier friendship that dissolved because of a misunderstanding?

Mangan is not afraid of giving her characters plenty of room to explore their motivations and, just as important, the perceived motivations of those around them. At times, the heated analysis can veer into melodrama --- the cinematic possibilities are clearly on display here --- but there is still plenty of fast-paced action. Where it all leads is presaged at the beginning, so part of the enjoyment is watching how it unfolds. Though a little clunky at times, Mangan writes so well that readers will overlook any misplaced red herrings in an effort to find out how she pulls offthe final scenes.

TANGERINE --- the name given to those expats who fall in love with the city --- is a delicious, if overwrought, blend of psychological thriller, travelogue and whodunit that is likely to find a big audience, first of readers and then of moviegoers.

Reviewed by Lorraine W. Shanley on March 29, 2018

by Christine Mangan