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Duplicate Keys

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3.24  ·  Rating details ·  1,685 Ratings  ·  166 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
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Published 1998 by Recorded Books, LLC (first published February 12th 1984)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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mark monday
Aug 31, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Laurel-Rain
Mar 17, 2016 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
...more
Amanda
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
Margie
Mar 03, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Constance
I feel really fond of this book and the experience of reading it. Probably because I bought it in a bookstore in Taipei over 10 years ago when I had run out of books to read and I felt really fondly toward it then too. It's a little wordy in parts but it's pretty good.
Shanu
Sep 06, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
NOPE.

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
...more
Sara*
Jan 23, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lee D'Anna
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
Ardys
Jan 25, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sally
Apr 22, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Dan
Aug 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There’s no compelling reason to read this murder mystery novel published in 1984 unless you’re hell-bent on reading Smiley’s entre oeuvre like I am, or are nostalgic for the early 1980s. There are references to stolen tape decks, pantyhose, and fashionable women eating large deli sandwiches that aren’t there to be topical, but are just part of the landscape. I was reminded of the 1978 Goldie Hawn movie “Foul Play,” which although set in San Francisco, also features a librarian caught up in event ...more
Debra
Alice Ellis has been divorced for two years, but still wallows in the pain of it. She is a librarian, living in NYC with friends from home (MI) who include rock musicians. This tight knit group is devastated by the murder of two friends. Susan and Denny are a couple and Denny's close friend Craig often stays at their apartment. Over the years, many copies of the keys to the apartment have been shared, including friends of friends. Alice finds the Denny and Craig when she goes to water the plants ...more
Andy Plonka
Jun 14, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: src
Although I'm primarily a mystery book reader, I was surprised to see Smiley's name on a book of my favorite genre. I was not surprised to see that the focus of the novel was character driven and relied heavily on each character's response to the murders of two of their friends. I like her other novels better.
Jane
Oct 22, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Rounding this up to 2 and 1/2 stars. I've read her latest series and it's much better than this early book. I have no review because it was awful.
Lene
Aug 07, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: absolute-crap
This book took 2.5 hours of my life that I'll never get back. By chapter 3, I wanted the protagonist to be shot in the head. That seemed like a good time to quit reading.
Mary
Feb 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm sure I read this book when it came out in the early 80s, but I don't remember much about it. I'm giving it three stars because... well, Jane Smiley.
astried
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
Myles
Apr 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, literary, c20th
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
...more
Michelle
Sep 03, 2015 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
...more
Michelle
Jan 24, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Anne Hawn Smith
Oct 30, 2010 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
...more
Kelley
Jan 18, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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
...more
Josh
Dec 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Robert Palmer
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
Mary
Oct 07, 2012 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
...more
Cheryl
Apr 07, 2016 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
Jo Ann
Oct 12, 2007 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
REVIEW:
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
...more
Jessica Gordon
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
Johnsergeant
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
...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
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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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