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The Monsters of Gramercy Park - Book Review

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by TheOnlyFiona (subscribe)
In real life, I do discuss food exactly like how I write in my food review articles. As always my food reviews are scored only on what I've tried and the service expected of that type of establishment.
Published March 29th 2013
Who's the real monster in a mind game?
I'm just messing with you. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. You say jump, I ask how high. You bite the hand that feeds you while I'm the one who kicks you. Each using the other for their own purposes. It's all but just a mind game, isn't it?

It takes two to tango. Crime author Lizbeth Green needs to break her losing streak. Her life is falling apart. The most devastating blow: her novels aren't what they used to be, popularity or otherwise. Her 'art imitates life' angle can only work for so long. Incarcerated gang leader Wilson Ulysses Velez is dying on the inside. Trapped in solitary confinement, his body is prematurely degenerating. The once notorious Incan Royals leader reduced to a sickly individual who can barely speak. His given up all hope until a miracle happens.

A new book deal brings Lizbeth and Velez together. Lizbeth's whole career is riding on it. A delicate turn of events moves her to the small town near the prison. Without any support except for a fan turned friend, Lizbeth puts everything into the project. The mind games begin. Velez surprises Lizbeth with an affinity for words, an intelligence she wasn't expecting. As his speech returns, Velez serves her an ultimatum: meet every one of his demands or else he walks away from the book.

What begins as biography documentation begins to take a darker tone as Velez worms his way into Lizbeth's life. At times brutal others vulnerable, Velez's recount of his past raises more questions. The more she learns about him the more difficult the biography becomes to write. It is an uneasy dance as Lizbeth finds herself grappling to keep her mind clear. He knows about the skeletons in her closet. His demands become more dangerous. His bad influence is about to push her off the edge.

The entire novel is a battle of wits. Nothing is as it seems. Lizbeth and Velez play off against each other with surprising results. Both characters are multi-faceted, sometimes acting as foil to each other. Their interactions make you wonder what lies beneath the calm surface. It makes it clear that we all play games. We all judge each other and present only our best to the public. Do we know who those around us really are? How can we sort fact from fiction when we ourselves don't always present the whole truth?

An ultimately shocking ending leaves a sense that there might be more in between the lines than at first glance. Everything from murder, conspiracy theories and media bias are a part of the puzzle. The children's book that is the namesake of the novel offers a confusing piece. Will Lizbeth allow herself to be a pawn in a much bigger game? Is Velez a monster? Or was he merely at the mercy of forces beyond his control?

The Monsters of Gramercy Park offers a gripping, psychological battle of wits. Reading that is very much up to personal interpretation.
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