Lavinia is a social creature and Lulu is not, at least not at the beginning of Social Creature, a psychological thriller in the tradition of “The Talented Mr. Ripley” with a touch of “Single White Female.” Louise is approaching thirty and stretched thin, working three jobs to scrape together enough to keep living in New York City which is all that remains of her dreams and ambitions. She meets Lavinia who overwhelms her with her joie de vivre. Of course, joie de vivre is a bit easier when your wealthy parents provide a luxurious apartment and wealth.
Lavinia is more a bon viveur than a bon vivant and her frequent parties and binges with Louise soon begin to impinge on Louise’ ability to work. Louise perceives the risks of this relationship, that Lavinia matters more to her than she does to Lavinia. This is brought home when she meets the needy and desperately ingratiating MiMi, discovering that she is the next in a series of “best friends” that Lavinia has adored and dropped, but it’s too late for Louise, who has given up her ratty, but rent-controlled apartment, lost her jobs, and is secretly making ends meet by using Lavinia’s ATM card. We know what is coming because the author Tara Isabella Burton announces that Lavinia is not making it to the end of the book quite early. In fact, as much of the story is devoted to how Louise keeps Lavinia alive, social creature that she is, long after she’s swimming with the fishes.
Social Creature is one of those books that is filled with horrible people, self-indulgent, narcissistic, selfish, and mean people. The reader is put in the uncomfortable position of liking the killer the most, at least this reader did. The love interest, Rex, seems so perfect, but he’s a bit of a double-dealing snake. Lavinia’s milieu is filled with horrible people. Nonetheless, Burton makes us care what happens, or at least makes us desperate to know what happens next.
The book is fast-paced and engrossing. It kept me up reading to the end, wondering when and, more urgently, how Louise will be found out. There’s a sly humor, particularly with the moments of foreshadowing that let us know Lavinia will soon be dead. I know that sounds ghoulish, but it’ s not. It’s sly.
Social Creature will be released on June 5th. I received an e-galley from the publisher through NetGalley.