Review of The Lady Upstairs

The Lady Upstairs

Halley Sutton

November 17, 2020

G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Blurb: A modern-day noir featuring a twisty cat-and-mouse chase, this dark debut thriller tells the story of a woman who makes a living taking down terrible men…then finds herself in over her head and with blood on her hands. The only way out? Pull off one final con.

Jo’s job is blackmailing the most lecherous men in Los Angeles–handsy Hollywood producers, adulterous actors, corrupt cops. Sure, she likes the money she’s making, which comes in handy for the debt she is paying off, but it’s also a chance to take back power for the women of the city. Eager to prove herself to her coworker Lou and their enigmatic boss, known only as the Lady Upstairs, Jo takes on bigger and riskier jobs.

When one of her targets is murdered, both the Lady Upstairs and the LAPD have Jo in their sights. Desperate to escape the consequences of her failed job, she decides to take on just one more sting–bringing down a rising political star. It’s her biggest con yet–and she will do it behind the Lady’s back, freeing both herself and Lou. But Jo soon learns that Lou and the Lady have secrets of their own, and that no woman is safe when there is a life-changing payout on the line.

A delicious debut thriller crackling with wit and an unforgettable feminist voice, The Lady Upstairs is a chilling and endlessly surprising take on female revenge.

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After going through a dry spell, I picked up Halley Sutton’s The Lady Upstairs and dove right in, relieved my dry spell was over with good writing. Unfortunately, while The Lady Upstairs shows a lot of promise, it doesn’t always deliver.

One of the main reasons for me as to why The Lady Upstairs doesn’t deliver is its main character, Jo. Now Jo is hard-drinking and cynical with a soft side, and she’s a blackmailer. While you would think that anyone who sets out to blackmail wealthy, important though pervy men would be smart, Jo frequently dazzles with her impetuous stupidity. At least that’s how I felt about her. I can’t recount the number of times I asked: why did you do that? In one particular situation, I concluded that Jo’s dimness came from the fact that the author, knowing the outcome of the story, didn’t allow Jo to have the wide variety of options that a character without blinders would have.

The “mystery” of the novel, the identity of The Lady Upstairs, came very early to me, but I did find it worthwhile watching the situations play out. The characters all could have been fleshed out more. We never really know who Jo, Robert Jackal (the blackmail photographer), or Lou (Jo’s colleague) are, much less were before they became blackmailers. Having that information would have added a layer of satisfaction.

All in all, The Lady Upstairs was a good read, although I wish Jo drank less and was clever more (or at all).

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.



3 out of 5 butterflies

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