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Reader Reviewed
House of Beauty  by Melba Escobar

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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

Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title. You can click here to read the full reviews.

  • Christine Woolfenden - 'A slow burning but very absorbing tale of innocence in a corrupt city. A welcome change from the usual crime fiction, definitely worth a read.'
  • Nicola Jones - 'Don't let the light hearted title fool you, House Of Beauty is a heady tale of insecurities leading to desperate measures, murder and corruption. Thought provoking and original.'
  • Gillian Wilmott - 'A crime novel with a difference, set in the lawless corrupt city of Bogota. Told from the viewpoint of two heroines it takes some concentration to read, but it’s compelling and I would recommend it.' 
  • Belle Woodward - 'An unusual thriller. There is more than one victim here, and more than one person responsible for the most heinous of crimes.' 
  • Charlotte Walker - 'A great crime story... but not necessarily as you know it. It is a tragic, gripping read and I would definitely recommend it.'
  • Britteny Sutcliffe - 'I literally could not put this book down. The ending definitely brings a twist that i did not expect. I would advise to read this book, It only took me two days to read!'
  • Dee Jessup - 'House of Beauty was not what I was expecting, but isn't that what you want from a good book?'
  • Cara Templeman - 'A hard going beginning, but be sure to keep at it,  It's definitely worth it!!'
  • Jan Kirkcaldy - 'It’s a book that you can’t put down for all the wrong reasons .  It is not enjoyable but it tells you things you need to know.  I’d say read it and learn...'
  • Ceri Edwards - 'This had the potential to be an interesting little book.'
  • Alison Greenacre - 'A gritty novel, set in a beauty parlour in modern day Colombia.  Warning; it's a pretty bleak read.'
  • Jocelyn F Garvey - 'This is a multi-stranded story of women trying to survive in a world where men are all powerful. Very different because the women who tell the story have their own battles to fight.'
  • Philippa Newman - 'I’m sorry but this novel just didn’t resonate with me at all.'
  • Diana Mason - 'This book was not for me. I feel this book should be read by someone from Columbia.'

Win Shetland DVDs SIGNED by Douglas Henshall!

Based on the novels by Ann Cleeves and starring Douglas Henshall, we have copies of Shetland the complete series 1-4 and Shetland Series 4 to give away to 3 lucky winners courtesy of ITV Studios Global Entertainment.

Each prize comprises of 2 Shetland DVD sets, the boxset from series 1-4 and then series 4, totalling 8 discs with a rrp of almost £60! Both sets will be signed by the star of the Shetland Series, Douglas Henshall.

To have a chance of winning one of these fantastic prizes, click the button below. Please note that this draw is open only for UK residents and is free to enter, multiple entries from the same email address will only be counted once.

The draw closes on 26 April 2018. The winners will be notified by 8 May 2018.

Good luck!

Enter prize draw Draw closes: 26/04/2018


House of Beauty by Melba Escobar

A thought-provoking Colombian crime novel set in and around a beauty salon in Bogota House of Beauty is a high-end salon in Bogota's exclusive Zona Rosa area, and Karen is one of its best beauticians. But there is more to her role than the best way to apply wax, or how to give the perfect massage. Her clients confide in her, and she knows all about them. Their breast implants, their weekends in Miami, their divorces and affairs. Karen has problems of her own. She's in trouble, and she needs money. More money than she can make at House of Beauty. Most serious of all: a teenage girl has been found dead, and Karen was one of the last people to see her alive. So the girl's mother is desperate to talk to her ...


'House of Beauty offers a unique glimpse into modern-day Colombia and an intriguing mystery around issues of gender, class, and race, where a woman's worth is too often tied to her beauty, yet her beauty too often gets her in trouble. It's a pleasure to see a story told through the lens of two very different heroines, rare in crime fiction. And, in these times, this novel is also a much-needed critique of everyday misogyny and corruption'
Winnie M Li, author of Dark Chapter

'Fantastic. I read it faster than it takes to have a mani-pedi and a massage and was moved, shocked and transported' Rachel Edwards, author of Darling

About the Author

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.

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Book Info

Publication date

8th March 2018


Melba Escobar

More books by Melba Escobar
Author 'Like for Like'


Fourth Estate Ltd an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers


256 pages


Crime / Mystery

Crime & mystery
Fiction in translation



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