Publishing executive Maris Matherly-Reed finds a gem of a story prologue in her slush pile, and resolves to hunt down the elusive author to get the rest of the manuscript. Titled Envy, the prologue hints at a volatile relationship between two young men that ends badly during a boating trip.
What Maris doesn't realize is what sort of ramifications the story, and that boating trip, will have on her and her husband, Noah Reed, and father, Daniel Matherly — the three-person oligarchy over Matherly Press.
Eager to edit Envy, she tracks its author to a remote island off Georgia's coast. It's there she's able to access the story, chapter by chapter, and better get to know its cantankerous, mysterious wordsmith. It's only a matter of time before she realizes she's been caught in a spectacular game of manipulation, deceit and murder.
This was a re-read (or re-listen, as it were) for me. I first listened to Envy several years ago; it served as my introduction to Sandra Brown as well as to audiobooks. And what an amazing, grand slam of an introduction it was: Victor Slezak's smooth, radio-ready delivery brought to life what already was a gripping story. He nails the biting, southern drawl of Envy's author, Daniel Matherly's fatherly concern and Maris' perserverance. He depicts the villains as delightfully scheming and heartless. Slezak knows when to move things along and when to slow things down so you can luxuriate in the wonderful tension of a scene.
Another aspect of the story that really struck me was the book-within-a-book format: As we watch Maris' story unfold, we also read chapters from the book she's editing, which recounts the backstory of the two men in the prologue. It's all very meta but Brown makes it work flawlessly.
No, he'd come this far, he was committed to seeing it all the way through the denouement. But between here and there, he couldn't make a single misstep. Each chapter had to be carefully thought out, with no mistakes allowed. It had to be the perfect plot.I have since gone on to try a few more Sandra Brown books, but so far none of have entertained me as much as Envy. After re-listening to it, though, I'm apt to give some of her more recent releases a try, particularly if Victor Slezak is involved in the spoken version. Envy the audiobook remains, to me, a stellar example of perfect alchemy between story and narration.
And if his resolve to finish it ever faltered, he had only to remember how long it had taken him to reach this point in the saga. Six months.
Well … six months and fourteen years.