In the wake of her father's death, Betty Roux doesn't allow herself to mourn. Instead, she pushes away her mother, breaks up with her boyfriend, and leaves everything behind to move to New York City. She doesn't know what she wants, except to run.
When she's offered the chance to play the leading role in mysterious indie filmmaker Anthony Marino's new project, she jumps at the opportunity. For a month Betty will live in a cabin on a private island off the coast of Maine, with a five-person cast and crew. Her mother warns against it, but Betty is too drawn to the charismatic Anthony to say no. Anthony gives her a new identity--Lola--and Betty tells herself that this is exactly what she's been looking for. The chance to reinvent herself. That is, until they begin filming and she meets Sammy, the island's caretaker, and Betty realizes just how little she knows about the movie and its director.
... chilling ... While Larsen’s skill at setting up a suspenseful story is deft, the novel’s true power lies in her exploration of Betty’s mind, showing how a talented, intelligent woman slowly — through self-doubt, insecurity and inexperience — exposes herself to danger. There is something of the naïve yet steely narrator of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca in Betty: She is both the victim and architect of her own tragedy.
I don’t necessarily think Shutter hits all the emotional and intellectual highs it’s aiming for, but I do think this is a very interesting examination and subversion of the typical machismo that underpins a lot of modern American entertainment. As this is Melissa Larsen’s debut, it will be intriguing to see what ideas she explores with her next novel, which I’m certain will be just as thoughtful if not more so.
... suspenseful but largely unbelievable ... Assured pacing and the knockout punch of a surprise ending help compensate for unconvincing characters and plot clichés. Larsen’s storytelling potential suggests she’ll do better next time.