Memphis Reads – The Ugly Duckling by Iris Johansen

Staff Book Reviews

Susan reviews THE UGLY DUCKLING by Iris Johansen (Bantam Books, 1996).

The Ugly Duckling is a Cinderella story with a twist.

Nell Calder is plain, ordinary, and the wife of a financier with a lovely daughter named Jill. On the night of an elegant party for Richard, her husband, hosted to advance his career, the unthinkable happens. Nell thinks she is hearing firecrackers, but they are gunshots. Nell is attacked and thrown over the balcony. She wakes to a shattered face and a dead husband and child. She should not be alive, but with a reconstructed and beautiful face along with anonymity, she is plotting her revenge.

Enter Nicholas Tanek, who helps Nell despite her wanting and moving on revenge on her own. His keeping her identity a secret and her reluctantly accepting his help move the plot forward. Tanek was at the party; he believes he could have prevented the deaths of Richard and Jill, but what all he knows he keeps close and slowly reveals to Nell and the reader why he was involved at all. For Nell, her new-found physical beauty is but a means to an end. She toughens physically and mentally to face the murderer.

Nell Calder really never was plain and ordinary; she is a woman of exceptional inner strength.

Susan B., Library staff