2 out of 4 stars
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The Underbelly is a novel by Evelyn Cole. It’s a story that centers on two women. Patricia McCabe, better known as Trishita, is a 25-year-old waitress. She was raised by a single mother that spent more time drinking and getting in trouble with the law than being a parent. Trishita writes a fake resume and gets accepted as a maid at the Hyde family home. Her hope is to use them to achieve her goal of getting a higher education.
Jacquelyn Hyde is an assistant superintendent. She’s married to Arthur and they have two children named Ethan and Sylvia. However, no one realizes that behind the respectable suburban wife and mother is a woman with a secret. Jacquelyn’s cure for insomnia is breaking into people’s houses and destroying their collections, be they Lalique figurines or beer bottles.
Trishita quickly becomes an essential part of the Hyde household. She especially forms a strong bond with 13-year-old Sylvia. All of that makes Jacquelyn jealous of Trishita. However, unbeknownst to Jacquelyn, Trishita also begins an affair with both her 16-year-old son and husband.
The first thing I’d like to address is that I’m not sure why this book was placed in the Crime & Mystery section when really it is a novel. There is no secret to find out or crime to be solved. It’s not a thriller either. If you are expecting those things then The Underbelly is not the book for you.
However, besides not meeting my genre expectations, it also didn’t have any characters that I related to or found likable. Trishita uses sex to get what she wants and her underprivileged background as justification for her actions. She’s not at all sorry about how the Hyde family is damaged by her actions. Jacquelyn was also equally lacking in personal responsibility. She doesn’t seek help for her problems and justifies her property destruction as destroying false idols.
A large part of the book is Trishita’s relationship with Sylvia, which is at the core of Jacquelyn’s jealousy of her. That was my least favorite part of the book because Sylvia’s dialogue was unrealistic and she didn’t sound like a teenager to me. And speaking of dialogue, the characters often used slang in their speech. Sometimes it was hard to tell whether something was a spelling error or whether the author meant it that way.
Trishita also has no goal in life other than learning. Sure, I can appreciate a character that likes studying just for the sake of it, but don’t most people have an endpoint in mind when they pursue higher education? Trishita has no dream job in mind or future career she would like to have. It made her character seem underdeveloped.
I give this book 2 out of 4 stars because overall I didn’t like The Underbelly that much. The book does improve in the second half when Jacquelyn’s nighttime adventures become more dangerous. Both hers and Trishita’s secrets are at risk of being exposed and it makes for a lot more interesting reading. Also, any prospective reader should be warned that the book contains plenty of swear words and sexual language. It also has more than one rape scene.
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