A postmodern, feminist variation on the Marquis de Sade's book of the same name, this American debut from Scots writer Thompson is a compelling, though abstract, meditation on identity and desire. The nameless male narrator, a handsome, wealthy aesthete whose physique is marred by a deformed foot, owns a portrait of a beautiful young woman named Justine. At his mother's funeral, he spies the portrait made flesh, but the real Justine leaves before he can speak to her. Later, he thinks he sees her again at an art museum, but this slightly less beautiful woman turns out to be Justine's twin sister, Juliette, whom the narrator seduces in hopes of finding her sister. When he does finally meet his reclusive beloved, she tells him that she is being stalked by an obsessive fan of her just-published novel, whom she fears is trying to kidnap her. Then Justine is apparently kidnapped, and Juliette also abruptly disappears, leaving the increasingly delusional narrator to search for the truth. More intellectual entertainment than explicit or transgressive fiction, Thompson's novel recalls John Fowles's The Magus or Paul Auster's The New York Trilogy more than it does the perverse and menacing work of de Sade which will doubtlessly come as good news to some readers.
Interesting plot, somewhat confusing, but most comes together by the last page. Though, just as any book regarding the Marquis, it leaves you asking: what next?