Set in the summer of  1969, Claire Fuller’s sensational story of guilt, voyeurism, and sexual obsession burns deliciously while it holds a mystery open at the center, until its final moments. From her deathbed, Frances Jellico recalls meeting and living with Clara and Peter, a seductive couple, in an ornate, decaying mansion. Here she quickly finds herself lost in the beautiful maze of their charms and lies. As an aging, socially inexperienced academic who’s used to caring only for her ailing mother, Frances is surprised and then delighted by the intensity of their friendship that catches her in an all-consuming and decadent spiral toward catastrophe. The glamorous couple, and even Frances herself, are just as enigmatic and damaged as the mansion they are meant to be surveying—peel back another layer and something new and crumbling waits.

Fuller’s language too is as hedonistic as her characters—dark, atmospheric, and bittersweet—lingering just long enough to grab at your senses. A mystery lies at the heart of this slippery novel, unfolding piece by piece, and never quite what it seems. For as soon as you have the story in your grasp, Bitter Orange darts away, proves you wrong, and drags you in deeper and through to the very last page.

Tin House.

—Review by Claire Pincumbe