Jan 25, 2012

Book Review: The Face Thief by Eli Gottlieb

"Honey!" he said, touching her trembling back while squelching the desire to shout. I was preyed upon, dammit! I was ambushed by a miserable creature who used the traction of a single kiss to try to wound both of us! That's the truth! (ch. 18)
The Face Thief: A Novel by Eli Gottlieb
William Morrow; Hardcover, 256 pages; Jan. 17, 2012
Genre: literary novel, suspense
Objective rating: 4.5/5

Margot Lassiter, a young magazine journalist, wakes up slowly in the hospital, not rememering much about the fall down a long marble staircase that caused serious head injury and partial amnesia. Had she been pushed? Detective Dan France visits her regularly to try to find out. He also is looking closely into her life before her injury. As she lies in the hospital recovering, Margot remembers her childhood and the influences on her life.

Flashback to Lawrence Billings, a psychologist who gives seminars on face reading, body language and how to use this to advantage in the business world. Margot is one of the attendees at a seminar, and she insists on taking private lessons from Lawrence so she can have improve her skills in business dealings. But it turns out that Margot is the master, not Lawrence,and she is able to manipulate him with her own body language and her sharp ability to read his. "Men speak a stench," she often thinks, and she can sniff them out expertly.

Flashback again to another man, 42-year-old John Potash, a happily married man, comfortably well off, who is persuaded by telemarketer Janelle Styles from Greenleaf Financial to look into investments with her company in the newest green technology. He meets her and her partners and is convinced that he would make a mint by investing almost all of his savings, his wife's savings, and his mother's.

The three stories converge in the novel to create a suspenseful tale of psychology and manipulation. The men - Dan the detective, Lawrence the psychologist and face reading specialist, and John the investor - are no match for Margot, who reads them easily. When Margot recovers and leaves the hospital, the men try to minimize the damages done to their marriages and self esteem.

I wished that the book had gone into more detail about face reading, but it didn't except for when Lawrence gives a few tips in his seminars. A jagged hairline could mean some traumatic experience in the teenage years, shape of the upper or lower lip could show either a sensual or pleasure denying bent, extra plumpness on the lower cheeks around the mouth could mean lots of energy. Large ears low on the head would make the person thoughtful and deliberate; a cleft chin would mean a big ego....and so forth.

The Face Thief made me think of how often people I know or I myself put on a face or attitude that didn't reveal true feelings. It certainly will make me more observant of body language and face characteristics. Not that this novel is all negative...There is at least one innocent, goodhearted man in the book, and at least three good women. None of them are Margot.

A fascinating book that is both a literary and a suspense novel. I am anxious to read the author's other novel, Now You See Him, which also got good reviews.

About the author: Eli Gottlieb’s New York Times Notable Book, The Boy Who Went Away, won the Rome Prize and the 1998 McKitterick Prize from the British Society of Authors. His second novel, Now You See Him, has been translated into eleven languages. He lives in New York City.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book.
© Harvee Lau of Book Dilettante. Please do not reprint without permission


  1. This one sounds really good, I like thrillers and I'm interested in seeing how Margot uses her power. The title is just creepy though.

  2. I just got this one out of the library and I can't wait to read it because I think it sounds fascinating and very dark. I am so glad that you loved it and that it was such a great read for you. I will have to let you know what I think of it!

  3. This actually sounds like one my oldest son would read. He read the book written by the man who inspired 'Lie to Me."

    1. Staci: Lie to Me is a book I'd like to read. Thanks for letting me know about it. Hope your son likes The Face Thief if he reads it.

  4. I've not heard of this one before but it really does sound good. Great review!

  5. Well... it could have been better
    I was looking forward to reading a book about deceit based on reading body language- I thought I was going to love this novel, but try as I might I just could not. It seemed to have a promising start, but the middle and end to this book really were lacking.


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