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Duplicate Keys

3.24  ·  Rating Details ·  1,579 Ratings  ·  155 Reviews
Alice Ellis is a Midwestern refugee living in Manhattan. Still recovering from a painful divorce, she depends on the companionship and camaraderie of tightly knit circle of friends. At the center of this circle is a rock band struggling to navigate New York’s erratic music scene, and an apartment/practice space with approximately fifty key-holders. One sunny day, Alice ent ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published November 9th 2004 by Anchor (first published February 12th 1984)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,529)
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mark monday
Aug 29, 2011 mark monday rated it liked it
Shelves: murdertime
literary author Jane Smiley does a murder mystery, which is cause enough for interest. the central character is fascinatingly and realistically deluded in her understanding of the events unfolding around her and in her lack of comprehension of the inner character of her lifelong friends. this is much more of a slow-burning character study and a depiction of an emotionally intricate set of relationships than a suspense-filled mystery. however, the sequence in which the heroine finally finds herse ...more
Mar 20, 2016 Laurel-Rain rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The spacious Manhattan apartment was like a central meeting place for the group of friends who had all moved to the city around the same time. Within their group were members of a band called Deep Six. The three actual residents of the apartment were Denny Minehart, Craig Shellady, and Susan Gabriel. Others who came and went freely were Noah and Rya Mash and Ray Reschley.

On a morning in May, another friend, Alice Ellis, had stopped by to water the plants, as Susan had gone out of town to the Adi
Smiley's style is so readable that I enjoyed the book in spite of the fact that I spent the first half arguing with it. As I turned the pages (and I did keep turning the pages), I kept saying to myself, this is not how real people act. The book begins with a murder, and all the friends spend the days following talking about how "amazing" it is and arguing about whether one of the victims was destined to die young anyway. They ate a lot, too. I lived through a freind's murder, and we were all in ...more
Mar 09, 2009 Margie rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
The protagonist reminds me very much of the protagonist of A Thousand Acres; unable to discern the motives of others, unable to see anything but the best in people, and willing to twist herself into origami shapes in order to create a truth that allows everyone else to be a good person. I'm not sure if I dislike her because she's unlikeable or if it's because she reminds me of parts of myself I dislike.

It's interesting to see the template of Smiley's character development overlain on a murder my
Lee D'anna
May 29, 2016 Lee D'anna rated it it was ok
After remembering reading and enjoying Smiley's "A Thousand Acres" but then being disappointed by her more recent, "Some Luck", I thought I would give one of her earlier novels (and one of a different genre) a try. I was ready for a good suspense novel over the holiday weekend and although this one was billed as such, it wasn't until the last 40 pages of the book that there was a brief scene of suspense before it reverted to more of a psychological drama delving into the lives of a group of sing ...more
Aug 03, 2014 Shanu rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

I bought this book not knowing anything about the author. The cover looked pretty so i took it. I've let it sit a year on my shelf before actually deciding to read it.
This book is so annoying i gave myself one day to read it and then give it away (more like forcing it on someone).

I have nothing to say about the writing style. It's good for the most part (not my favourite style but it's really not bad). But everything else... Oh my god. I don't know where to start.

First of all : the chara
Jul 10, 2008 Ardys rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 18, 2008 Sara* rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
I just finished Jane Smiley's Duplicate Keys, a mysterious story of murder, betrayal, and life in 1980 New York City. The story follows a group of friends, a few of them in a band, from the Midwest who come to NYC seeking their piece of the rock n' roll pie. The group has moderate success and receives lukewarm reviews, but the members trudge on obsessing over their next great song, lyric, review, connection. Two of the band members are found in their apartment dead by Alice, a friend outside the ...more
Apr 22, 2014 Sally rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
This was one of my take-along books for the trip to Destin. I couldn't exactly spend all my time reading Stratford Caldecott and T4G books, could I?!? So I picked up a few small paperbacks from the library. I have read other books by this author, and I thought this might provide a pleasant diversion. Instead, it was a tedious muddle of psychological drama and thriller. Two men are killed and a longtime friend is trying to make sense of it all. The main character was insipid and self-questioning, ...more
Dec 18, 2015 Josh rated it it was amazing
This is my third Smiley book. She has a precision of language and...structure, I guess, that puts the reader so totally into the mind of a given character that it almost startles. I usually read before bed and put the book down when I reread enough lines, but there were times when Smiley's writing woke me up because it made uncomfortable. Like, through empathy. The story is of a librarian who discovers the double murder of two friends. If I was looking for a thriller, I probably would have been ...more
Sep 03, 2015 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jane Smiley, you are my new favorite author.

I picked this up on a whim at the library (slim paperback, easy to read while nursing), and ended up loving it. One, I love good dialogue, but I also love when an author can pick up on the subtleties (how a character is eating while they talk, or are they smoking, or whatever, and what does it mean), what our main character is thinking about as she watches the others (are they being genuine???), what memories are arising from this conversation, etc. An
Candy Wood
Right away I was struck by how dated this 1984 novel seems. The focalizing character, Alice, explains to the police detective how she found two bodies when she let herself into her friend Susan's New York apartment to water plants while Susan was away, and how she had to walk to find a functioning phone to call the police. Cell phones would have been useful at several points in the plot. Alice is not a particularly engaging character or reliable observer, so that being limited to her perspective ...more
Apr 28, 2016 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jane Smiley's book is about eight Midwest friends that move to New York. Some relationships fracture, others seem strong, but when two of the eight are murdered it changes their bonds completely. The main protagonist Alice, appears to be one of those people who can be intelligent but also completely clueless about the things closest to her. Even when she is right about certain things, her naivety has her trusting at times when she shouldn't and angry at the wrong individuals. There were times, I ...more
May 15, 2016 Lynn rated it liked it
This book drew me in and entertained me, even though I was aware of disliking the writing and the characters. There were some odd, clunky word choices and descriptions that didn't make sense and time didn't seem to move forward correctly in some cases (e.g. I thought it was after midnight, then it seemed like suddenly it was dinner time, and not clear whether it was the whole next day). Meanwhile, the main character didn't seem believable at all. I don't expect everything in a book to be plausib ...more
Dec 20, 2014 Linden rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Adult readers
Recommended to Linden by: the author's other work.

Alice Ellis discovers the murder of two men, members of her circle of six who all moved to New York City from Minnesota. The story primarily focuses on the effects of that event on the lives of others, rather than discovery of the perpetrator, though that is uncovered.

I'm a fan of Smiley's other work, such as A Thousand Acres and others, but her style seemed at odds with this story. Maybe it was that Keys didn't have the usual pace, structure or style of a traditional mystery, though I did love
May 06, 2012 Myles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, literary
Jane Smiley's books seem to have always been around, I remember seeing them on my parents' shelves, at the library, you know, just around. I always assumed she was something of a Fannie Flagg, a writer of nostalgic literary fiction, not a bad thing necessarily, but something I could ignore. Enter The Greenlanders, a historical fiction epic that succeeded on every level. Which made me wonder, who is Jane Smiley?

Finding a title of hers I'd never seen before I decided I'd find out some more. She t
Robert Palmer
Mar 10, 2013 Robert Palmer rated it liked it
Jane Smiley usually writes about relationship s within family and friends and they have been very good novels. This book however is a mystery plus the relationships. Six young friends move from Minnesota to New York hoping to make it big as a rock group, ten years later only two are still trying but they spend most of their time sitting around drinking ,doing drugs and talking about all of the bad breaks they have had. One day Alice,who now works in a library go's to Susan's apartment to water h ...more
Anne Hawn Smith
Jun 05, 2011 Anne Hawn Smith rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This book was a disappointment to me. I disliked all the characters and the naive, blissfully unaware, Alice was too stupid to be a librarian, much less a friend. Non of the characters were well developed and their lives were pitiful.

The plot was about some friends in their 30's who had come through the hippie commune era and were living in New York. The band had had a hit record, but had done nothing much since. They seemed on the border of going some place, but never quite made it. The story
Oct 07, 2012 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes contemporary mysteries
Recommended to Mary by: Library Book Sale
Alice Ellis is a refugee from the Midwest living in Manhattan. Still recovering from a painful divorce, Alice depends on the companionship and camaraderie of a circle of tightly knit friends. At the center of this circle is a struggling rock band trying to navigate New York City's erratic music scene, and an apartment/practice space with approximately fifty key-holders. One day, Alice enters the apartment and finds two of the band members shot dead.

As the double murder sends shock waves througho
Jim Leckband
Smiley took a risk with this book early in her career. "Duplicate Keys" is about a stoned out, crappy rock band and their "entourage" that had only one hit in their career and now are scraping by on pot fumes and faded Rolling Stone reviews. I say this is a risk for Smiley because she certainly hadn't done anything better than the rock group so far in her career!

"Duplicate Keys" is a psychological thriller, a bit like Ruth Rendell. There is a cliffhanger quality to it, but Smiley is most concern
A lesson for me to write a review while it's still hot :( I was finishing the book sitting at Museumplein, being blown by unbelievably relentless wind, not budging because at least it was sunny there and I was just a couple of pages more from closing the book. My hair was completely tangled and my heart cried out every few seconds, "I'm Alice! This is me she's writing about! Yes, that's how I felt that time too!". Obviously my brain was smarter than the rest of my body and hid itself somewhere w ...more
Jan 18, 2013 Kelley rated it liked it
My first Smiley novel. This one was actually pretty good, better than I expected, but I must admit my expectations were not high. This book started strong, sucked me in and made me attached to Alice. I liked her, the divorced librarian originally from Minnesota and now taking on the Big Apple with a close-knit group of friends.
Mystery and some twists kept me guessing about who the murderer/s might be and for a while I actually cared who did it. But just over half-way through this book went stagn
Mar 09, 2009 Michelle rated it it was ok
I listened to this book, which may have largely contributed to my not really liking it. I didn't know anything about it and just picked it up at the library because I like Jane Smiley.

The premise was somewhat interesting -- two musicians were found murdered in their NY apartment, and the list of people who had keys to the apartment was so long as to make it nearly impossible to reconstruct, and thus the list of possible suspects was equally long.

The narrator, Alice, found the bodies of her frien
Jo Ann
Oct 12, 2007 Jo Ann marked it as to-read
Alice Ellis is a Midwestern refugee living in Manhattan. Still recovering from a painful divorce, she depends on the companionship and camaraderie of tightly knit circle of friends. At the center of this circle is a rock band struggling to navigate New York’s erratic music scene, and an apartment/practice space with approximately fifty key-holders. One sunny day, Alice enters the apartment and finds two of the band members shot dead. As the double-murder sends waves of shock through their
Oct 19, 2015 Jennifer rated it liked it
I enjoy Smiley's work mainly for her grasp on people. This is the 2nd novel of hers that I've read and though it was not as masterful as the other it was still worth the read. Although it is marketed as a mystery the literary style keeps it from really feeling like a mystery. The pace is unhurried and this book could not be called a thriller. Instead it is a chance to fully immerse yourself in another's mind. The protagonist is a typical person with plenty of weaknesses and blind spots and nothi ...more
Alice is watering plants for her friend Susan while Susan is away. When she comes into the apartment, she discovers Susan’s husband, Denny, and their friend, Craig, murdered. During the course of the book, there is an investigation into the murders, but the focus of the book is on the group of friends that they all belonged to, and their problems and issues.

The book was o.k. I didn’t really like very many of the characters, though, and I found it moved a bit slowly. I did like one of the second
Jul 03, 2015 Jane rated it it was ok
Ugh, slog, this got so tedious! The main character was infuriating, so needy and dependent and wishy washy about everything in her life, and discovering a double murder only makes her more so! I hate incompetent narrators and she takes the cake, quite literally as she spends a quarter of the novel emotionally eating her way through difficult situations when her immediate group of friends become the prime suspects in the murder. So glad to be done with it.
Sep 01, 2007 Johnsergeant rated it really liked it
Listened to the audiobook from Recorded Books

Narrated By: Ruth Ann Phimister

Jane Smiley’s talent for creating emotionally-gripping tales of family relationships was celebrated when she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for A Thousand Acres (RB# 94792). In Duplicate Keys, Smiley displays her flair for creating a haunting mystery. Everyone has keys to Susan’s New York apartment: all her friends, and friends of friends. So one afternoon, when Alice unlocks Susan’s door to w
Sep 15, 2016 Alisha rated it it was ok
Honestly, I read this just to get through it for my bookclub. I was interested in it enough to plow through it and find out who did the murder. Once I found out who it was, it was intriguing but that was it. This book was VERY wordy for me. I'm not complaining about it being long, I've read 500 page books before, but it was very bland and meh for me. It didn't really even start getting interesting till more than half way through the book and I honestly just skimmed through a lot of it to get the ...more
Jessica Gordon
Mar 31, 2013 Jessica Gordon rated it it was ok
Had I known this was a murder mystery, I would not have read it. That said, it is exactly how I imagine all murder mysteries must be--propelled by the readers mild curiosity and not all that much suspended disbelief. I liked the character of Alice Ellis, and I grew to know her slowly, but I never got to know any of the other characters, particularly Noah and Rya. The book was entirely about Alice and told from her perspective, yet it was a story that encompassed many people who were just distant ...more
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Jane Smiley is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist.

Born in Los Angeles, California, Smiley grew up in Webster Groves, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, and graduated from John Burroughs School. She obtained a A.B. at Vassar College, then earned a M.F.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. While working towards her doctorate, she also spent a year studying in Iceland as a Fulbright Scholar
More about Jane Smiley...

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“Laura's gossip was redeemed by its lack of spite. She was warmly objective about every event, taking endless delight in action and complexity, as if she had been bed-ridden in a small windowless room for years and was just now discovering the dramatic possibilities of daily life. She sang Alice through the day.” 1 likes
“...but from this distance, the velvety reds, flashing yellows and glassy whites [of the roses] seemed to break up the light of the summer sun into its various elements and cast it back far more brilliantly than any other flower ever could, seemed not exactly of the earth, but of space and air itself.” 0 likes
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