Reviewed by Jennifer Jensen

With a title as eye-catching as The Face Thief, Eli Gottlieb’s new novel sounded enticing and memorable. The opening chapter drew me in as Margot, the villain of the novel, tumbles down some stairs and ends up injured–obviously pushed by someone. But as the story progressed, I couldn’t wait to be finished with this one.

The chapters go back and forth between the present and the past, where we are witnesses to the events that led up to Margot’s fall. Margot pays for private lessons from Lawrence Billings to perfect her ability to con people, and in the process screws with Billings’ personal life. She is already very successful at what she does, and has conned a married man, John Potash, out of his family’s life savings.

It’s rather difficult to talk about a plot for The Face Thief, because there doesn’t really seem to be one. Gottlieb instead focuses more on the characters, but with so much back and forth between them all I had a hard time forming any emotional attachments to any of them. Neither Billings nor Potash are sympathetic characters; they each contribute in subtle ways to their own downfalls, Billings for giving in to Margot’s flirtations, and Potash for falling for something that was too good to be true. Also thrown into the mix is a police officer that does not enhance this novel in any way. Billings’ wife, a very minor character, is perhaps the most sympathetic of the lot, but after more of Billings’ back story was revealed, I found myself losing respect even for her.

In reading The Face Thief, I have realized that I am the type of reader that prefers a strong plot balanced out by equally well written characters. Novels that focus entirely on characters with a very weak plot–or no plot, in this case–are far less interesting to read.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆ 

Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.