The Main Character

In The Main Character, a clever but at times uneven homage to Agatha Christie, Jaclyn Goldis explores the unusual strategy her bestselling mystery author, Ginevra Ex, devises to shape the protagonists of her own novels.

Instead of using only her imagination, Ginevra finds ordinary people from whom she can build a character and asks them increasingly personal questions, followed by an investigation by a private detective. In exchange for their life's story and the invasion of their privacy, the subjects receive $100,000, plus infamy in one of Ginevra's novels. Former news anchor Rory Aronov is "Ginevra's latest, and finest, main character," and the author gives her a bonus: a luxury suite on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express for a journey across Italy. For Rory, the train conjures the "most glamorous Agatha Christie novel. A place inexplicably of both fun and murder." But her excitement becomes puzzlement when the passengers include her brother, her ex-fiancé, her best friend, and a former lover who is also Ginevra's attorney. Each of them receives a copy of Ginevra's unpublished manuscript, which exposes their secrets. The manuscripts' disappearance is only one mystery the train holds.

Ginevra's devious plotting manipulates Rory and company as if they were her creations. But a tangential story line delving into Ginevra's past takes the plot off the rails until Goldis brings her clever idea back on track. The Main Character gains its strength by concentrating on the characters' interactions as this Christie tribute puts a new spin on the locked-room mystery. --Oline H. Cogdill, freelance reviewer 

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