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Melba Escobar writes for the Colombian newspapers El Espectador and El Pais. Her novel House of Beauty was chosen as one of the best books of 2016 by the Colombian National Novel Prize. She lives in Bogota.
Set in the author’s home city of Bogotá, Colombia, this absorbing, pacey women-centered novel has a brutal murder at its core, and offers sharply observed insights into corruption and double standards around class, gender and race, as seen through the eyes of two unforgettable female protagonists. Gripping, brutal, honest, insightful, this is smart crime fiction with social conscience. Karen has moved to the city to earn money to send home to her young son. She works at the high-end House of Beauty salon, playing the role of confidante alongside her waxing and massage services. When one of Karen’s clients, a teenage girl, is found dead, the girl’s mother turns to Karen for information since she was one of the last people to see the girl alive. Then there’s psychoanalyst Claire, another of Karen’s clients, who’s recently returned to Bogotá after living in France for years. The women’s inner and outer lives, their struggles, desires, and increasingly dangerous predicaments are explored and played-out against the salon backdrop and beyond, as Karen becomes embroiled in the city’s criminal underworld. The writing is smart, the story riveting, and the author is truly gifted at character portraiture, and incisive in her exposition of misogyny. ~ Joanne Owen