To Die For by Lisa Gray

3 Mins read
To Die For by Lisa Gray front cover

Glaswegian author Lisa Gray is known for her page-turning thrillers set in the United States. Her debut novel, Thin Air, was a bestseller. She used this book to introduce the character of Jessica Shaw, a PI who is unaware of her own past. After a few more Jessica Shaw novels, Gray began writing standalones and To Die For is a thriller set in the competitive world of high-end real estate.

The settings of Los Angeles and Malibu are critical to the plot. They are areas of great wealth where it is a major industry in itself to create the image of lifestyles that others will desire. People are judged on what car they drive, what designer clothes they wear and, crucially, where they live. If you have ever watched reality TV shows like Selling Sunset or Keeping Up With the Kardashians and its many spinoffs, you will understand the vibe that Gray creates in To Die For.

The book begins with a private party for realtors and big-time buyers at a stunning new house on Malibu Beach Drive. Overlooking the Pacific, it has all the features required to capture the interest of someone willing and able to pay the $50 million price tag. The Dom Pérignon is flowing and the guests are suitably impressed by the house, but the celebration is cut short when a body is found floating in the pool. From the prologue we move into the main story. Who’s the victim and why are they in the pool?

The main character in the book is Andi. She has been working as an agent at Saint Realty but is now thinking about opening her own agency. The cost of leasing space in the area Andi wants is pricy. She could use an infusion of cash. She thinks that her prayers have been answered when she learns that Saint Realty has just listed a $50 million beachfront house in Malibu. The commission for selling it would be a million dollars – a life-changing amount for someone like Andi.

Unfortunately for her, the other agents working at Saint Realty are also desperate for the cash. Hunter, Krystal, Verona and Myles all have their own reasons for needing the money. You will learn those reasons from each of the five agents themselves as Gray develops the story from their different perspectives. Chapters in the book are labeled with the character’s name and are primarily set before the house viewing party.

Interspersed between them are chapters from the perspective of the investigating police detective, Aribo. He is called in to work the case while he is out celebrating his 20th wedding anniversary with his wife Denise. Their relationship comes across as the most honest and caring one in the book. They have been married almost as long as Aribo has worked for the police. His experience shows as he investigates the murder that occurred at the house on Malibu Beach Drive. Aribo’s story largely takes place after the viewing party. Eventually all perspectives shift to the night in question and the fallout after the mysterious death.

A story told from six different perspectives with multiple timelines can be a little challenging to get into. Once you do get into the structure of the book, all will become clear. You will be eager to find out what secrets the characters are hiding and want to know the identity of the body in the pool.

Gray has created an interesting mix of characters in very different life situations. Even though some of the characters are not likeable, you will be curious to see how low they will go to get their hands on a $1 million commission. The cut-throat competition between the real estate brokers will keep you guessing as to the identity of the murderer and the victim. If you are looking for a beach read or a book to keep yourself entertained on a long flight, To Die For is a good pick.

Also see Our House by Louise Candlish, another crime novel where real estate is central

Thomas & Mercer

CFL Rating: 4 Stars

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