Set in 1950s Morocco, Christine Mangan’s debut is an unnerving story of obsession, deception and some serious gaslighting.
Tangerine by Christine Mangan
I can’t remember the last time a book upset me so much that upon finishing it I would look up in utter disbelief and mutter “Well, fuck me sideways” into the empty room. That is, until I finished Tangerine.
Alice and Lucy, frenemies, haven’t seen each other for over a year, and if you ask Alice, this is just as well. The last person she wants to see is her old college room mate, so when she shows up on her doorstep in Tangier, she’s less than thrilled. Lucy on the other hand is cool as a cucumber, and basically invites herself to stay with Alice and her total jerk husband.
The story is told in a dual narrative; starting slowly, alternating between Alice and Lucy. The tension is palpable, and a picture of a toxic friendship slowly forms through flashbacks. Chapter by chapter the apprehension creeps in as the pace picks up, hurtling towards the revelation about that horrible night at Bennington Alice can’t seem to get over. Once the truth is out, a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues. A devious manipulator, always one step ahead, against an unraveling mind.
Tangier, this bustling, exotic city is pictured in such vivid detail, you could almost feel the sweat trickling down on your back. On the verge of independence, the place served as the perfect backdrop to the story. Shady con men preying on tourists, local officials eager to get rid of the expats, they have bigger things to worry about than giving a flying fuck about the domestic drama a distraught and somewhat deranged English woman finds herself in.
Setting the story in the 1950s? Perfect! All this shit would have been hard to pull nowadays with Facebook and social media being a part of our everyday lives, but back in those days it seemed almost too easy.
I’ve never been one to get easily creeped out, but guys… I’m thoroughly disturbed. Like, seriously. That last chapter was sickening as fuck! You get the feeling when you just want your blankie and a hug?
That said, there were some gaping plot holes that left me puzzled…
See what I mean?
While on a day trip near Tangier, Lucy admits to tampering with the brakes of Alice’s boyfriend’s car, causing the accident that ended the dude’s life a year ago, a.k.a. “the accident at Bennington”. But when exactly did she have the time for this? The dude drove over to pick up Alice, and he never left the car.
When Alice wakes up in the hospital after the accident, her aunt, Maud is dead set on not believing her when she mentions that Lucy has been acting like a creep for a while. The fact that after the accident Lucy disappears just supports this theory, but Aunt Maud tells her to shut up and she will “sort everything out”. The police is also determined to not listen.
When Aunt Maud arrives to Tangier after the disappearance of Alice’s husband, she firmly believes that Lucy is in fact this woman called Sophie Turner, because “that’s what she said”. Alice insists that it’s a lie, but Aunt Maud just shakes her head and decides that poor Alice most likely needs to be committed to a mental facility. Even after they go to the police and everything points towards Lucy lying and getting fake documents, Aunt Maud just shushes Alice and reassures her that she will “handle things”.
When the Moroccan police questions Alice after her husband’s body is found, they reveal that a well known con man, Yusuf told them that the lady who killed the victim befriended him and told him her name is Alice Shipley, and she also asked for fake documents. Alice tells them it was most likely Lucy. Nobody takes even five minutes to actually ask the man what the woman in question actually looked like. It’s sort of said that the local police were distracted by the impending independence and all, but I didn’t feel that it was a satisfying explanation for their complete negligence.
With some serious The Talented Mr. Ripley vibes, Tangerine is a truly unsettling read that will put you on the edge of your seat for sure.