Maddy's Reviews > Matala

Matala by Craig Holden
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's review
May 29, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: 2008-reads
Read in December, 2008

RATING: 4.25

In this day and age of bloated books, it's a welcome relief to run across an exceedingly well-told tale that comes in at under 200 pages. In the case of MATALA, it's actually rather amazing to see how much action and tension Craig Holden manages to pack into 180 pages.

Darcy Arlen is a rich young American whose parents have sent her on a pricey tour of Europe as a high school graduation present. It's just begun, and Darcy is already sick of touring museums and ruins. She leaves the tour group to explore the streets of Rome on her own. She bumps into a young drifter named Will, who brings her back to the hostel where he is staying with his much older lover, Justine. Justine and Will are barely making it; running across Darcy seems a stroke of good luck, as she seems amazingly willing to spend her money without question. It doesn't take much effort to convince Darcy to travel with them; before long, they are off to Florence and a European experience that Darcy couldn't conceive of in her wildest imagination.

As it turns out, Darcy isn't nearly as naïve as she's led Will and Justine to believe; and it isn't long before she is turning the tables on the two of them. In order to repay a debt, Justine must deliver a package to Crete. The three of them team up as con artists. From that point on, the narrative unfolds at a terrifying pace. Betrayal, sexual obsession, brutality—and a climax that resolves everything and nothing at the same time.

Holden excels at unveiling the vagaries of some very dysfunctional relationships, while springing several surprises along the way. Holden is an excellent writer, and he had me under his spell for most of the book. There was a bit having to do with white slavery that I found rather preposterous; and the ending was unsatisfying. It's too bad that the resolution didn't measure up.


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