Review: Pretty Things by Janelle Brown

Title: Pretty Things by Janelle Brown
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Contemporary, Crime Fiction
Length: 470 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Two wildly different women—one a grifter, the other an heiress—are brought together by the scam of a lifetime in a page-turner from the New York Times bestselling author of Watch Me Disappear.

Nina once bought into the idea that her fancy liberal arts degree would lead to a fulfilling career. When that dream crashed, she turned to stealing from rich kids in L.A. alongside her wily Irish boyfriend, Lachlan. Nina learned from the best: Her mother was the original con artist, hustling to give her daughter a decent childhood despite their wayward life. But when her mom gets sick, Nina puts everything on the line to help her, even if it means running her most audacious, dangerous scam yet.

Vanessa is a privileged young heiress who wanted to make her mark in the world. Instead she becomes an Instagram influencer—traveling the globe, receiving free clothes and products, and posing for pictures in exotic locales. But behind the covetable façade is a life marked by tragedy. After a broken engagement, Vanessa retreats to her family’s sprawling mountain estate, Stonehaven: a mansion of dark secrets not just from Vanessa’s past, but from that of a lost and troubled girl named Nina.

Nina’s, Vanessa’s, and Lachlan’s paths collide here, on the cold shores of Lake Tahoe, where their intertwined lives give way to a winter of aspiration and desire, duplicity and revenge.

This dazzling, twisty, mesmerizing novel showcases acclaimed author Janelle Brown at her best, as two brilliant, damaged women try to survive the greatest game of deceit and destruction they will ever play.


Pretty Things by Janelle Brown is an interesting crime novel with an intriguing premise.

After a chaotic childhood, Nina Ross worked hard to distance herself from her con artist mother, Lily. She went to college and after graduation, she took a job which she hoped when eventually lead to a lucrative career. But when her mom becomes ill, Nina returns home to help her through treatment. With medical bills piling up, Nina teams up with Lily’s friend, Lachlan and they begin robbing wealthy people in the area.  After their latest heist, she discovers her mother needs expensive medical treatment again. So, she and Lachlan head to Lake Tahoe where she plans to rob Vanessa Liebling, who comes from a family with whom Nina has an unhappy, tangled history.

Nina and Lachlan carefully set up fake identities in order to inveigle their way into Vanessa’s life. Nina has insider information that should result in a huge payday for them.  She and Lily once lived in Lake Tahoe and Nina shared an unexpectedly close friendship with Vanessa’s brother, Bennie. Their relationship ended badly and she and Lily rapidly left Tahoe behind.  Now, Nina has a two-fold reason for targeting Vanessa-revenge and a huge payday.

Vanessa has recently retreated to her family’s home in Lake Tahoe after dropping out of her Instagram-influencer “career” following her father’s death.  She is mourning her loss while she half-heartedly attempts to rebrand herself on Instagram. Now renting out the caretaker’s cottage on her property, Vanessa is desperately lonely and eager for her new renters to arrive.

Despite their careful planning, Nina and Lachlan’s scheme is off to a rocky start and after a couple of shocking discoveries, Nina finds herself in deep trouble. Unbeknownst to her, Lachlan is running his own scheme to score big.  How will Nina react when she learns what he is doing in Lake Tahoe?

Alternating between Nina and Vanessa’ points of view, Pretty Things starts off strong but soon gets bogged down in tediously long flashbacks. None of the characters are particularly likable and betrayals lurk around every corner.  After the halfway point, a few unanticipated plot twists liven up the slow pacing and  Janelle Brown brings the novel to a surprising conclusion.

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