The Main Character: A Novel

Image of The Main Character: A Novel
Release Date: 
May 21, 2024
Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Reviewed by: 

“For Ginerva Ex, bloody, murdered bodies were par for the course. Ginerva had poisoned and stabbed with the best of them. She decapitated, shot, and even had a victim killed while skydiving (framed as an accident). The New Yorker had called that one ingenious. But a murder conducted by pen—blood contained to a page that was summarily flipped—well that was quite different from standing over the dead body of someone you loved.”

Ginerva Ex is an eccentric and somewhat mysterious bestselling author who instead of dreaming up the characters in her thrillers takes real people and fictionalized them. It’s always worked like a charm in the past, but then she invites invited Rory, a friend who is cast as her next main character on an all-expense paid trip on the Orient Express. But Rory, who at first sees the trip from Cinque Terre to Rome to Positano along Italy’s Mediterranean coast as the easiest money she’s ever made—all she has to do is luxuriate in the train’s lavish accommodations and talk about herself--is in for a surprise.

A former news anchor who has screwed up her career (her own words) after being fired because of an error-ridden segment and still reeling from her boyfriend jilting her after a ten-year engagement, Rory is baffled when she discovers her fellow passengers include her brother, best friend, and Nate, her ex-fiancé. Ginerva had neglected to mention that these significant people in her life were to be her companions on the journey. What else, Rory wonders, has Ginerva neglected to tell her?

Described as “another stylish and compulsively readable mystery from Jaclyn Goldis, this is the perfect read for fans of Ruth Ware, Lucy Foley, and Paula Hawkins,” the book is a gentle whodunit with an interesting cast of characters in a stunning setting with Ginerva being among the most complex.

Goldis, the author of The Chateau, is a graduate of NYU’s law school who left her real estate planning practice for a major Chicago law firm to travel carrying only what would fit in her backpack. Now living in Tel Aviv, she tells the tale in the separate voices of her characters as they try to decipher what Ginerva is really up to and what she is trying to accomplish more than her stated purpose of writing a novel.

Rory is soon convinced that not only will there be murders in the book that Ginerva is planning on writing but also in real life. Suddenly the $100,000 she is being paid to be the main character in Ginerva’s book—a payment that includes answering probing personal questions, having her life scrutinized by Ginerva’s team of private investigators, and having an in-depth psychological assessment conducted—doesn’t seem like such a deal after all. And what secrets are everyone, including Ginerva, hiding from each other?

But it’s a little late for second thoughts on the wisdom of taking the trip as everyone is already aboard and the train has left the station.