by L.S. Hilton

L.S. “Lisa” Hilton scored a worldwide smash with Maestra(2016) by cutting chilly erotica with something wicked. Exploited by several horrible men in London, Judith Rashleigh became entangled in an art-house thriller in various chic locations in France and Italy: European Psycho, perhaps. There was glamour, but also a fleshly horror, as if Jilly Cooper had been possessed by Francis Bacon. Within three pages there are drink, drugs, sex and murder in a bathtub. There is also that Baconian disgust: “His slippery skin was pinkish, puffed out like new bread …” Judith has been undercover as Elisabeth Teerlinc, running a ritzy Venice gallery, largely for the glitz and cred: her first show is with the hip Serbian Xaoc Collective, which is a taste of plots to come. But Judith is also keen to escape her past. Fat chance. The prose is abuzz with name-dropping, of Caravaggios and rich Barolos. There are chic locales (Venice, St Moritz, Paris), nuzzling hanky-panky and more double-crosses than the church of San Zan Degolà as seen by a drunk Russian. The plot, more baroque than that of Maestra, is more confusing and less gripping. Freed from the humiliation of part one, Judith is a colder, less sympathetic proposition, but intriguing nevertheless.