Jessica Martinez is a master at combining lyrical prose with tense, sometimes dark plots, and Kiss, Kill, Vanish is no exception. Valentina Cruz, a pampered, wealthy Miami girl, finds herself on the run from everything she knows after witnessing her boyfriend, Emilio, shoot and kill another man on her father's orders. Hiding (and freezing) in Montreal, Valentina tries to make sense of her life and figure out what to do next. Posing for paintings by a spoiled rich boy, Lucien, gives her enough money to live on, but not enough to buy her self-respect. But when the unthinkable happens, Valentine finds herself forced to confront her past with a most unlikely ally: Lucien's drug-abusing, cynical younger brother, Marcel.
Martinez does a wonderful
job painting the characters: Lucian's thinly veiled insecurity,
Marcel's contempt, Valentina's own struggle to understand herself and
the life founded on drug money. And some of her word-paintings for
setting are stunning and vivid. Some readers won't like the allusions to
drug use and sex in the main characters, and the plot-line is
admittedly dark (and sometimes violent). The ending wasn't entirely
plausible to me, and I spent too much time wishing Valentine would just
get over her ex-boyfriend, but there was so much to love about the book
(the writing, Marcel--surprisingly enough!, and the vivid settings),
that these didn't detract from my overall enjoyment too much.