For August’s meeting of the Mystery Book Club, we are reading Who is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews. Join us for some lively discussion on Thursday, August 17 at 7pm at Davis Library in the Hardy Room and virtually through Zoom. If you would like to attend the meeting virtually, please register here.
Who is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews
Florence Darrow is a low-level publishing employee who believes that she’s destined to be a famous writer. When she stumbles into a job the assistant to the brilliant, enigmatic novelist known as Maud Dixon — whose true identity is a secret — it appears that the universe is finally providing Florence’s big chance. The arrangement seems perfect. Maud Dixon (whose real name, Florence discovers, is Helen Wilcox) can be prickly, but she is full of pointed wisdom — not only on how to write, but also on how to live. Florence quickly falls under Helen’s spell and eagerly accompanies her to Morocco, where Helen’s new novel is set.
Amidst the colorful streets of Marrakesh and the wind-swept beaches of the coast, Florence’s life at last feels interesting enough to inspire a novel of her own. But when Florence wakes up in the hospital after a terrible car accident, with no memory of the previous night — and no sign of Helen — she’s tempted to take a shortcut. Instead of hiding in Helen’s shadow, why not upgrade into Helen’s life? Not to mention her bestselling pseudonym… Taut, twisty, and viciously entertaining, Who is Maud Dixon is a stylish psychological thriller about how far into the darkness you’re willing to go to claim the life you always wanted.
Andrews’ devilishly clever debut opens at a publishing-house holiday party in a New York bar where editorial assistant Florence Darrow and her colleagues are debating “the question asked in countless magazine articles, online forums, and publishing lunches all over town”: Who is the author behind the pseudonym Maud Dixon? Someone says they’ve heard it’s a man! As one of the millions of fans of Dixon’s debut novel, Mississippi Foxtrot, Florence dismisses the importance of the author’s gender. “She knew that, whoever she was, she was an outsider, like Florence herself.” Later that night, Florence ends up in a hotel with her editorial director, who happens to be married to a famous actress. “He must have known,” Florence later muses, “that sleeping with a young assistant who worked for him had the potential to destroy both his career and his family.” But when Florence tries to parlay their connection into a book deal, it is she who ends up losing her job. Oddly, though, she’s not worried about being broke and jobless–she’s sure the universe is watching out for her. And she may be right, because two weeks later she’s asked to apply for a job as personal assistant to Maud Dixon herself. This delightful publishing satire continues for about half the book, and just when you’re thinking “Didn’t they say this was a thriller?” the wild suspense plot kicks in. The story leaps from an isolated estate outside Hudson, New York, to the dusty medinas and towering cliffs of Morocco, and here the comparisons to The Talented Mr. Ripley start to make sense. At every diabolical twist and turn, Andrews’ impish sense of humor peeks around the corner to jack up the fun.
Terrific characters, vivid settings, and a deliciously dastardly, cunningly constructed plot. – Kirkus Review
Alexandra Andrews has worked as a journalist, editor and copywriter in New York and Paris. Her first book, Who Is Maud Dixon?, was named a best mystery novel of the year by The New York Times and a best book of the year by TIME, NPR, Publishers Weekly and others. She lives with her husband and children in Brooklyn, where she is currently working on her second novel. – From author’s website