Cover Image: Eye of the Beholder

Eye of the Beholder

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I still remember sitting on the couch after watching Vertigo for the first time, mind spinning and adrenaline rushing through me as I tried to wrap my head around what I’d just watched. Emma Bamford’s Eye of the Beholder is an impressive tribute to this film masterpiece, and I felt a similar reaction to that of watching Vertigo as I unraveled the plot one page at a time.

So many elements of this novel worked well for me. I loved getting to see behind the scenes of a ghost writer at work. The remote estate, the enigmatic and secretive cosmetic surgeon, and the tightly spiraling tension all drew me in until I reached the last page late at night, far past my bedtime.

There were a few times when I struggled to suspend disbelief.. Some of our main character Maddy’s relationships with others felt a bit rushed, and I didn’t buy everyone’s motivations. (I’m being intentionally vague because everything is a spoiler with such a tightly knitted plot!). However, I thoroughly enjoyed Emma’s writing style, and the tension kept me reading regardless of a few small doubts.

In a sea of thrillers following the same tired plots, Emma Bamford’s Eye of the Beholder skillfully nods to Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo while setting a course of its own that many thriller lovers will enjoy.

ARC received from Gallery Books | Gallery/Scout Press via Netgalley.

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"Eye of the Beholder" by Emma Bamford promises an intriguing dive into the complexities of the beauty industry, wrapped in a mysterious narrative set amidst the Scottish Highlands. Yet, while the premise holds much potential, the execution falls short in delivering a truly captivating read.
The story follows Maddy Wight, a ghostwriter tasked with penning the memoir of Dr. Angela Reynolds, a renowned cosmetic surgeon with a secretive past. As Maddy delves deeper into Angela's world, she finds herself entangled in a web of puzzling characters and unsettling occurrences at Angela's remote estate. With the eerie atmosphere of the Scottish moors adding to the suspense, the stage is set for a gripping tale.
However, despite the promising setup, the pacing of the narrative proves to be a major stumbling block. The initial chapters drag on, burdened by excessive exposition and a lack of significant plot progression. Maddy's characterization adds to the frustration, as her constant yearning for affection comes across as more melodramatic than empathetic.
It isn't until the latter part of the book, around the 80% mark, that the story gains momentum. As Maddy finally begins to put everything together, the pace finally quickens, offering some respite from the earlier sluggishness. Yet, by this point, the reader may find themselves more relieved than enthralled, having endured a prolonged wait for the narrative to find its footing.
Despite its shortcomings, "Eye of the Beholder" does manage to tie up loose ends with a satisfying conclusion. The resolution brings closure to the storylines and offers a glimmer of redemption for the characters. However, this redemption may come too little, too late for readers who have struggled through the preceding chapters.
In summary, "Eye of the Beholder" presents an intriguing premise marred by sluggish pacing and a protagonist whose struggles fail to resonate. While the book eventually finds its stride in the final stretch, it may require considerable patience from readers to reach the satisfying conclusion. Ultimately, while it may not offer anything particularly groundbreaking, those willing to endure the slow start may find solace in its ultimately uplifting resolution.

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Book Title: Eye of the Beholder
Author: Emma Bamford
Publisher: Galley Books/Gallery Scout Press
Genre: Mystery Thriller
Pub Date: August 9, 2024
My Rating: 3 Stars!
Pages: 320

I was drawn to this story as the blurb states ~
it is based on the 1958 Alfred Hitchcock psychological thriller Vertigo.
I did see the movie but honestly don’t remember it other than I loved Alfred Hitchcock’s thrillers.
I still remember the TV show introduction ~

Maddy Wight is hired to ghostwrite the memoir of world-renowned cosmetic surgeon Dr. Angela Reynolds; she thinks it might just be her chance to get her career back on track. She travels to Angela’s remote estate in the Scottish Highlands to hunker down and learn everything she can. But the deeper she digs, the more elusive the doctor becomes. Is there more hidden beneath the surface of the kaleidoscopic beauty industry than Angela wants to reveal?

Story was okay – not great! However, I am sure someone else will just love this!
I just couldn’t get into it.
I read several Wow reads recently so reading this now was probably poor timing on my part.

Want to thank NetGalley and Gallery Book/Gallery Scout Press for granting me this early eGalley.
Publishing Release Date scheduled for August 9, 2024.

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I loved the premise and was excited to read the book. I found parts of it to be a bit confusing, especially towards the end. The pacing was a bit slow at times and felt like the book could have used a bit more editing. Overall, I enjoyed the story and writing.

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Page Count: 320
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press

Other Books I Enjoyed by This Author: First time read

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Release Date: August 6th, 2024

General Genre: Literary, Thriller

Sub-Genre/Themes: psychological thriller, suspense, amateur sleuth, mystery, ghostwriters, the beauty industry, anti-aging, cosmetic surgery, wealthy people, writing a book, houses in remote locations

Writing Style: slow burn, abundance of details, great set-up

What You Need to Know: The synopsis reads, “In exploring the differences between looking and seeing, surface and depth, and the power of the female gaze, this tribute to Hitchcock's 1958 film masterpiece asks: If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, how much can you trust what you see?”
This is what piqued my interest to the point of requesting an ARC. Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock is one of my favorite movies. The fundamental premise of the film (based on a book called, From Among the Dead) is a retired detective with a fear of heights is hired by a friend to follow his wife, Madeline, whom he suspects is up to something.
During his private investigation, Scottie and Madeline make an emotional connection, Madeline commits suicide, and Scottie is emotionally ravaged by what he witnessed, one day he thinks he sees Madeline–and that’s where the psychological twists & turns begin. If you haven’t seen it, you must. It holds up; timeless.

Final Recommendation: I believe that if an author is going to write a retelling of something iconic, there are three important elements:
1. The author needs to add something unique to the original that helps it stand apart on its own.

2. The story, style, and substance should be on equal footing with the source material. Fans will be showing up for similarities in vibes, mood, and aesthetics–not too much of a copy but a decent homage; it’s a fine line
If the source material is very iconic, in this case, Alfred Hitchcock’s, Vertigo is as iconic as it gets,

3. The writing chops have to be pretty damn good. These are big shoes to fill!
A great example is The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson. Carrie by Stephen King is as iconic as it gets but Jackson’s retelling with a modern update using racial tension and bullying by today’s definitions, was a smart choice. The bones of the story were there but the content was more relevant to kids today. Jackson's retelling convinces readers that King's story needed an update for a modern audience. The Weight of Blood is a successful homage.

I don’t think Eye of the Beholder added anything new to the Vertigo story. Modern technology didn’t change the bones of the story. Maddy’s ghostwriting profession didn’t add anything new. Angela’s (the Gavin character in Vertigo) status in the beauty industry could have inspired some new plot developments with facial recognition or altercations but it never played into the story at all. She could have had any profession–nothing about the beauty industry changed or enhanced this story.
I felt like the author loved the movie and tried to update it for a modern audience without changing very much at all. Even Maddy and Scott’s names were the same. The changes that were introduced, everything readers were waiting for–the big reveals, convoluted the climax.
Things get messy at the end and readers aren’t rooting for Maddy the way movie lovers fell in love with Jimmy Stewart’s character in Vertigo. Madeline and Scott's insta-romance in Eye of the Beholder felt forced.
It just falls really, really short. I was disappointed. Maybe I’m too much of a die-hard Hitchcock fan, but I’m willing to accept that.

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Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller Vertigo , the author of the “subtle and ominous” (Lee Child) debut Deep Water returns with a wholly original and sinister novel about the beauty industry, a ghostwriter, and the reappearance of the lover she thought was dead.

This was really good! Great tension and great plot twists!

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I so wanted to like this novel. The cover was intriguing. I looked forward to the “thriller” that the promo promised. Unfortunately, I found “Eye of the Beholder” to be only a tepid and predictable mystery.

Maddy Wright is a ghostwriter for wealthy clients who want to produce their memoirs but can’t do it themselves. Despite her talent and hard work, Maddy’s name never appears in the books she writes since that would ruin the illusion that the “autobiographer” had written the book. Having published nothing under her own name, her career seemed stuck in neutral gear.

But now, Maddy has been hired by Dr. Angela Reynolds, a brilliant cosmetic surgeon who runs a corporation operating high-end clinics all over the world. Reynolds intends her memoir to be an aid to her corporation and clinics. The payoff for Maddy? A whopping fee and credit as co-author. The challenge? Maddy has only four weeks to complete the book.

So that Maddy can remain focused and always available, Reynolds sends the ghostwriter to her ultra-modern but very isolated home in the Scottish Highlands. Shortly after Maddy’s arrival, Reynold’s business partner, Scott, arrives unexpectedly and takes up residence in another wing of the house. Maddy and Scott experience several odd events Various questions and inconsistencies arise. Eventually, Maddy and Scott begin a romance.

Dr. Reynolds and Maddy do not work well together. They disagree about the book’s contents, Reynolds insisting that her memoir focus on cosmetology rather than her. Then Reynolds moves up the book’s launch date, giving Maddy even less time. Nevertheless, she finishes by the new deadline. Reynolds is pleased. Maddy returns to London to await publication day, eager to see her name on the finished product. At the launch party, Maddy learns that the book has been scrapped in favor of a new product and a corporate merger and that Scott has been found dead at the bottom of a cliff in Scotland. Several months later in London, Maddy is sure she sees Scott on a crowded street. Just what in the heck is going on?

“Eye of the Beholder” starts out well enough. Author Emma Bamford immediately hooks us by beginning the story with Maddy chasing her presumed-dead lover down city streets. As the narrator and protagonist, Maddy seems likable. The Scottish Highlands/”Brutalist“ mansion setting is well and specifically depicted. Bamford’s prose is clear and professional and includes the occasional literary flair. Her dialogue is believable.

As the novel progresses, however, Maddy loses credibility, becoming more self-absorbed and needy and much less likable. Her disagreements with Reynolds make her seem headstrong and churlish. Her love for Scott seems to come out of nowhere. None of the other characters are particularly engaging. Reynolds seems cold and aloof. Scott comes off as moody and morose. It’s tough to be “thrilled” by a novel whose characters are off-putting.

However, it was the novel’s plot and structure that I found most problematic. During the first half, I had trouble identifying what the mystery involved. Yes, some oddities occurred while Maddy was writing and falling in love in Scotland. But what were they in aid of? What was this novel about? It wasn’t until the second half that it became clear that these incidents actually “telegraphed” what was eventually to be revealed, thus rendering the “solutions” to the “mysteries” presented very predictable. That those solutions also relied on reams of “backstory,” some of which was delivered in long sections of explication, did not help matters.

Finally, I don’t believe “Eye of the Beholder” deserves to be called a “thriller.” It never left me on the edge of my seat or made my pulse pound or my eyes leap from page to page to see what happened next.

All in all, 2.75 stars rounded up to 3, meaning I did not enjoy this reading experience but found parts of it well done. Readers who are new, or fairly new, to the mystery genre may find something to enjoy here. But those who’ve read or watched a lot of the genre may come away from “Eye of the Beholder” with the feeling that they’ve seen all of this before.

My thanks to NetGalley, author Emma Bamford, and publisher Gallery Books, Gallery/Scout Press for providing me with a complimentary ARC. The foregoing is my independent opinion.

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Thank you #netgalley for another page-turner. The setting was dark and twisty which is perfect for this slow burn thriller. I'm a little young to be a true blue Hitchcock fan, but I knew this book was loosely based on Vertigo, so I had some ideas of where the story was going. This helped me during the slow burn phase of this book, but I still found myself surprised by parts. It was a little predictable in order areas, but there were a lot of good twist. Overall, I really enjoyed the read! 🌟🌟🌟🌟

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Great book!
I really enjoyed reading this! I’m not one to try to guess the plot lines and who is the bad guy, but I did find myself doing that with this book - some of the twists seem so obvious! But the way they were revealed kept my interest.
If I’d been able to I would have finished this book in a sitting.
The secluded location gave me the creeps! And the other houseguest (Scott) was good at dropping clues through the book to help the reader along.
While I did mostly figure out what was happening, I still loved reading this book and found it enjoyable!

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Eye of the Beholder is an atmospheric and intense read. While it did take a while to get to the riveting (it's more of a slow burn than fast paced) I enjoyed how things ramped up towards the end. It really made the book memorable and exciting!

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Thank you, NetGalley!!

I wanted to love this book but it is a little too slow for my taste. I love the movie Vertigo but it set my expectations too high. I would like to revisit this book as an audiobook to see if it helps with the pacing of the book.

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I enjoyed the inspired elements from Vertigo, it worked as a great mystery novel. I enjoyed the concept overall and it felt like a original thing. The characters felt like they were supposed to and I enjoyed how well everything flowed. Emma Bamford has a great writing style and I’m glad I got to read this.

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The book captivated me with its atmospheric charm, and the author’s writing was truly enjoyable. However, the rushed love between Maddy and Scott left me wanting more depth. The handling of depression/mental health in the narrative was disappointing, and the book felt padded with inconsequential details. Additionally, the abundance of romances, including the prevalence of rushed relationships, detracted from the overall experience.

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In this fast-paced, twisty thriller, Emma Bamford delivers a clever reflection of what modern people will do to project the image of themselves they want people to see--whether it is truthful or not.
From the get-go, ghostwriter Maddy is off-balance: she's been hired to write a whirlwind biography of a stunningly successful aesthetic physician--a high-powered woman with no interest in answering questions about her past. While cloistered in the doctor's remote Scottish property, trying to write a book with little to no information, she meets the doctor's enigmatic and attractive partner, Scott De Luca. Their chemistry is undeniable, but he is no more forthcoming about the elusive doctor. As the days go by, things become as murky as the Scottish mist, and Maddy realizes she is an unwilling part of something much bigger--and more sinister--than she'd imagined.
Fun brain-candy!

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This Alfred Hitchcock inspired thriller is a real treat!

Maddy Wight is hired to as a ghostwriter for a famous cosmetic surgeon who values her privacy and the privacy of her clientele. Dr. Angela Reynolds determines it is best if Maddy is ensconced in her estate in Scotland for a month as she creates the book. When Angel's business partner comes to the estate Maddy is intrigued. But as the days fly by she learns more and more about Angela - possibly much more than Angela would want her to know. When she learns that Scott has died, she knows there is much more to the story and to Angel's secrets.

This book will keep you guessing as well as have you looking over your shoulder. Highly recommend!
#gallerybooks #eyeinthebeholder #emmabamford

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Hooked from the first chapter! This thriller novel was amazing! I stayed up super late to finish it & just could not put it down.

The story is centered around Maddy, the main character and a ghostwriter for a cosmetic surgeon, Angela. Writing a memoir for her ends up being super difficult as Angela gives nothings about herself away and there’s nothing about her online. She’s secretive in a way that makes the reader suspicious. While writing, Maddy lives in Angela’s house with Angela’s coworker, Scott, who she grows close with. But just like Angela, Scott’s keeping secrets. Eventually, the book is finished and Maddy is back to London, but her story is far from over…. now go read this novel to find out what happens ;)

I genuinely didn’t know where this book was gonna go, and i LOVED that about it. the authors writing style was beautiful and im obsessed!!!

thank u for the arc!!

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Interesting story, average character work. I still really enjoyed it. It was a bit unbelievable at times, but the surprises and twists made up for it.

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This was a good, enjoyable read if you are able to suspend disbelief for the sake of a story. The protagonist, while likable, is very naive, and everything seems to just go over her head. Things that I had put together immediately, she was blind to until the end. She also falls in love and becomes seemingly obsessed with a man within days of meeting him. Then the ending just kind of happens, and that's it, making the feel of this read kind of like a plateau. That said, if you can look past all of that, then you will end up enjoying this for what it was, a solid mystery about vanity and how it can alter a person's perception of how they view the world, themselves, and their experiences. This had a solid foundation and overall point to it, I did enjoy it, and I just felt it was an okay story.

Thank you Netgalley and Gallery Books, for this ARC.

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Eye of the Beholder Review

Stumbled upon this book while scrolling through NetGalley and the description caught my attention. Who doesn’t love a good mystery?

The layers within this book took a bit to begin pulling back. We’re introduced to Angela and Scott through our main character, Maddy, a ghost writer from London. Maddy finds herself with a job opportunity she couldn’t refuse and is thrown into the nestled acres of Angela’s home in the Scottish moorland, surrounded by the loch and sloping hills. Visually, Bamford paints an amazing pictures of dense wilderness and chilly weather - I wanted to reach for a sweater several times while reading, I could feel the damp fog around me during Maddy’s long morning walks.

This slow burn of a mystery begins coming to a piping hot boil about 40% in, a tad dragged out compared to most stories, but it did not detour me from my investment in the story and characters. Each turn of the page, I was hungry for any clue as to what was going on with our two side characters and the secrets they hold. The book takes a while to get there - with some twists I had anticipated early on, others were a pleasant surprise as the reader.

This book is perfect for anyone who loves a non-spooky mystery and is drawn to stories that are a slow burn, the end crashing into you with wave after wave of information. Anyone who enjoyed Mean Streak would love this book.

4/5 stars

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Maddy Wight is a ghostwriter hired by a wealthy and famous cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Angela Reynolds. Maddy believes this could be the big opportunity she has been waiting for, despite all the inconsistencies and secrets about the job. This book about the beauty industry is said to be inspired by Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and it certainly is. Maddy is sent by helicopter out to Angela’s Scotland estate to write, however she is subsequently repeatedly blocked by Angela keeping secrets and misleading her. Angela’s business partner Scott arrives to stay there and he behaves strangely. Artwork disappears and a young girl seems to be watching them. Still Maddy and Scott develop a relationship. At the book launch party back in London Maddy learns that Scott has committed suicide and jumped off the cliff at the place in Scotland. This is where the story really takes off as Maddy spirals and believes she has seen Scott in London. Is he really alive? It was difficult for me to fully accept that they had a strong bond in Scotland, as well as Maddy’s reactions and behavior. Still the atmosphere of the story was intense, thrilling, and full of twists. The landscape was beautifully described. With thanks to Netgalley and Gallery Books for this ARC. My opinions are my own.

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