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The Fury
(Review, Summary & Spoilers)

By Alex Michaelides



Book review and synopsis for The Fury by Alex Michaelides, a layered five-act mystery-thriller about a former movie star who invites her friends and family to a getaway on a private Greek island.

Synopsis

In The Fury by Alex Michaelides, Lana Farrar is a retired beloved movie star who invites her friends to come with her and her family on a getaway to a private Greek island that she was once gifted by her former husband.

The island is idyllic and serene, but as fierce Aegean winds blow through -- known as to menos, or "the fury" -- tragedy strikes. A body is found lying in a pool of blood.

With the police unable to reach the island until morning due to the winds, the seven people on the island look to each other to try to figure out who the killer might be...

(The Full Plot Summary is also available, below)

Full Plot Summary

Ending & Explanations
See the Questions, Ending and Explanations
Chapter-by-Chapter Summary
See the Chapter-by-Chapter Summary of The Fury
Quick Plot Summary

The three-paragraph version: In the Fury, a retired movie star invites her friends -- Elliot and Kate -- to join her and her family -- her husband Jason and her son Leo -- on a getaway to a tiny private Greek island she owns, only for Lana to wind up dead from gunshot wounds on the second night. In Act II, we learn that she had discovered that her husband Jason and best friend Kate were having an affair which is why she planned the trip to confront them.

In Act III, we learn that Elliot was in love with Lana. He was the one who discovered Jason and Kate's affair, and he planted evidence so Lana would find out. In Act IV, we learn that Lana didn't die from those gunshots. It was a hoax to make Kate and Jason turn on each other. Then, Elliot tries to convince Kate that Jason actually meant to shoot her (Kate). He tells her that Lana was wearing Kate's shawl and Jason wanted to shoot Kate to prevent her from revealing their affair to Lana. Elliot hopes that this revelation will cause Kate to shoot Jason, which was Elliot's real plan all along. In Act V, we learn that they all knew about Elliot's real plan because Lana found his notebook describing it. Instead, they all faked going along with it. Their plan culminated with them turning on Elliot and shooting him (though it's just a blank to freak him out) as punishment for his psychotic plan.

Elliot is embarrassed and humiliated by all of this, and he shoots and kills Lana (for real) in anger. In the Epilogue, Elliot has been jailed for the murder.


The book opens with a narrator explaining that he's going to recount a story about a highly publicized murder that took place on a Greek island.

Act One

Lana Farrar is a famous, retired movie star who suggests that her friends, Elliot and Kate, join her and her family for a quick getaway at a tiny private Greek island near Mykonos that she owns, Aura. The island was a wedding gift from her first husband 25 years ago. They agree and meet her here, along with her husband Jason and teenage son Leo. Her longtime housekeeper Agathi joins them as well. Also, Nikos is the caretaker for the island and lives there year-round.

On the island, they eat delicious food and enjoy the beach, but the weather soon turns windy and gloomy. Jason and Kate have been having an affair, and Kate suspects Jason knows about it. Jason can't afford to have Lana find out, since he's in a financial mess after unsuccessfully managed other people's money, and he'll go to jail without Lana's money to bail him out. Their second night on the island, they have a tense dinner together on Mykonos, and three gunshots are heard. Leo is the first one on scene, followed shortly after by Agathi and Jason. Lana's dead body is found in a clearing, lying in a pool of blood.

Act Two

The narrator, Elliot, then retraces the events of the first act, filling in some missing information. He explains that Lana had discovered an earring in Jason's dry cleaning in the days before the trip, and she'd found a matching earring in Kate's makeup bag. Lana had long suspected there was something going on between them. Kate originally met Jason and was dating him, but when Jason met Lana, he fell for her, and Kate stepped aside.

Elliot then suggested going to the island to confront them -- a place where they'd be trapped and forced to face up to their misdeeds. On the island, Lana sees Jason and Kate kiss. The night after the dinner on Mykonos, she ends up asking Nikos for his help, asking him to do something for her in exchange for payment. Nikos tells her that all he wants is a kiss, and Lana consents. After she leaves his place, she's shot. The police aren't able to come until morning because the winds are too strong. (The narrator notes that by then they'd already know who the killer was.)

Act Three

In Act III, Elliot explains how he came to know Lana. His was a bullied and sad kid needing an escape from his life, so he first fell for her because of her movies. He ran away from home at 17 and ended up broke and desperate, doing unspeakable things to survive. Barbara West, a famous older novelist, came across him at a bar and took him home. He ends up staying with Barbara as a kind of escort. She gets her needs met, and in exchange Elliot gets shelter and exposure to her social circles. Elliot transforms himself, parroting the people she knows, and adopts the name "Elliot Chase".

One evening, he meets Lana at a party and befriends her. Their friendship grows, and he continues to fall for her, though she's already said she's not interested in romance. One night, he confesses many of his secrets to her, tells her he loves her and kisses her. Soon, he decides he wants to propose to her -- with a cheap ring in hopes of replacing it someone with something appropriate. But that night, Lana meets Jason and is all over him. That same night Barbara, tells Elliot that she met with Lana and told her the truth about his past and who he really is, and she let Lana know how money-hungry Elliot is.

Barbara soon dies, and Lana and Jason marry after a whirlwind romance. Elliot then happens to find out about Jason and Kate's affair purely by chance. He starts surveilling them and tries to find ways to expose it to Lana. He eventually comes upon the idea to plant the earring.

Act Four

Elliot reveals that there was more to the plan. Lana had told him, even after she discovered Jason and Kate's affair, that she had no intention of leaving Jason. So, Elliot's real plan was to destroy Jason.

At the island, after Lana is "shot" she wakes up and tells a very alarmed and upset Agathi that it's just a hoax. The point of Elliot and Lana's plan was to cause Kate and Jason to turn on one another, destroying their relationship.

Elliot then goes to talk to Kate. He tells her that he thinks Jason meant to shoot her, and not Lana. He says Lana had been wearing Kate's shawl. He knows that Jason is in financial trouble and that Jason couldn't afford to have Lana find out about the affair, so Jason wanted Kate dead. He also tells her that Nikos apparently fell off a cliff, according to Jason, while they were searching for an intruder, and he's dead. Elliot thinks Jason intends to frame Nikos now that he can't defend himself.

Kate is horrified and goes to confront Jason, but before she goes, Elliot presses a gun into her hand -- his real plan all along was to get Kate to shoot Jason. Elliot thinks that his plan has worked, but then Nikos shows up, alive and well. Kate, Jason and Nikos all turn on Elliot, accusing him of being the murderer and they decide they need to kill him. They force a gun into his hands and they force him to point it as himself and shoot.

Act Five

It's revealed that Lana actually knew about Elliot's plan to kill Jason all along, since she had found a notebook at his place detailing his scheme. Lana had then gone and made up with Kate, and the two of them had plotted the revenge scheme together, looping in everyone else (other than Jason since Lana wanted to punish him, too).

Elliot is actually okay, though since they used a blank. The point was not to kill him, just to freak him out and teach him a lesson for planning such a psychotic plan begin with. Afterwards, they all go back into the house to celebrate and tell him to leave. Elliot is humiliated and embarrassed and his feelings of being a bullied kid are reawakened.

Elliot returns to the house and in a fit of rage, he shoots Lana (for real). In the Epilogue, Elliot is now in jail for Lana's death. His former therapist Mariana comes to see him and suggests that writes down his feelings.

For more detail, see the full Chapter-by-Chapter Summary.

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Book Review

The Fury by Alex Michaelides came out in January, a standalone book that takes place in the same world as his previous mystery-thrillers, The Silent Patient and The Maidens. There’s brief mentions of the characters from his previous books, but definitely no need to have read either of them to get into this one.

The reviews of The Fury have been mixed, so I was actually originally planning on skipping this.

But I went through some of the reviews the other day, and I found it curious that it sounded like people were reading two completely different books. Some people thought it was a convoluted mess, while others thought it was brilliant. I eventually decided I might as well read it and find out for myself.

The In Fury, a retired movie star plans a getaway to a private Greek island she owns, inviting a few close friends to join her and her family. But soon a body is found. With only seven people on this secluded island, it’s clear the killer won’t be able to hide for long…

The Book Structure

Michaelides’s intentions with this book were ambitious. It’s structured as a classic five-act tragedy, but with a twist. Each act in the book reveals new layers to the story and sheds a different light on previous events.

Before I get into any criticism, I really want to give him credit for trying something inventive and difficult. I don’t think this was ever going to be an easy trick to pull off, and he comes somewhat close to making it happen.

This format works … at first. In Acts I and II and III, each additional act feels not quite as clever as the book wants it to be, but it does manage to add something to the story. In Act IV, however, you can feel the story starting to strain under the weight of its conceit. The book manages to hold it together, but I was starting to doubt if there was enough payoff to justify the additional complexity in the story. This was the “is the juice still worth the squeeze?” part of my reading.

By, Act V, I had my answer. The story crumbles in the last act, and in order to add another layer, it renders so much of the rest of the book as being moot and pointless. The characters’ motivations stop making very much sense. It definitely feels more convoluted than clever by the end.

Why it Didn’t Work

In the end, I don’t think the problem was the complexity itself — I didn’t have a hard time following it, and I imagine most other people wouldn’t either. I think the problem was that in order to create complexity and add increasing layers of new information to what we’d already learned, Michaelides ends up sacrificing the story itself.

In other words, the storyline itself just isn’t compelling enough to justify wading through all these layers. And in order to add the layers, Michaelides renders pointless a lot of stuff in the previous layers and the last act doesn’t make a ton of sense. Basically, the payoff of all of this feels inconsequential at best, nonsensical at worst. And the psychological characterization of these characters is completely all over the place.

In the original, Act I iteration of the story, you’re led to believe that the characters have certain motivations and there’s certain events driving their actions. With each Act and layer, these things sort of disintegrate.

For me, in a psychological thriller, when there’s a good plot twist, there’s a feeling of stuff clicking into place as truths are revealed. In this case, it’s mostly just a continual feeling of “okay, well I guess that’s a semi-reasonable explanation”, with an ending where it’s like “okay well now it stopped making sense”.

Anyway, obviously this is hard to discuss without spoilers. If you want to read the rest of my thoughts, I’ll address them in the Questions, Ending & Explanations page.

The Writing Style

Also, I should mention that the writing style in The Fury is another issue. The novel employs the lesser used second person omniscient perspective, and it’s written in a very conversational tone with frequent asides, errant commentary and a lot of meta discussion from our narrator.

At times, it works really well. There’s one chapter where, after the body is discovered, the narrator explains what would happen if this were an Agatha Christie novel. He says that in that case, an investigator would show up and break down all the facts and question each character. I loved this because it was a great way to succinctly give a rundown of the situation — quickly establishing basic facts, each character’s alibi and what we know about their motives. But other times it feels a lot more pointless.

Problematically, the second person omniscient perspective also adds some confusion to an already all-over-the place story, since it’s not clear where he’s getting his information from. How does this omniscient thing work, are we supposed to take what he’s saying at face value or view it from the lens of his character?

Also, sometimes the conversational style gets a little tiresome. I do think that listening to the audiobook helps. The way the book is written, it works well as an audiobook.

Read it or Skip it?

As I was reading this, I could tell how hard Michaelides tried to make his layered five-act book work, and I wanted very badly to enjoy this book more than I did.

But the story and these characters really weren’t compelling enough to withstand all these layers of complexity. At some point the book became complexity for complexity’s sake and the thin storyline breaks down under its weight.

Every time I read a novel from Alex Michaelides, I end up feeling like the book is imperfect in different ways but there’s hints of cleverness that are so satisfying that it really makes it worth it to me. I felt the same way about this book, and I am still glad I read it. I just wanted for the sake of the effort that clearly went into this for the story to be more enjoyable than it was.

See The Fury on Amazon.

The Fury Audiobook Review

Narrator: Alex Jennings
Length: 8 hours 8 minutes

The book is written in such a conversational way that I think it’s almost better as an audiobook. I also think Alex Jennings does a fantastic job of narrating the book in a way that gives a lot shape and texture to the writing.

I would definitely recommend considering the audiobook if you’re interested in reading The Fury.

Hear a sample of The Fury audiobook on Libro.fm.

Ending & Explanations

See the Questions, Ending & Explanations for The Fury

Book Excerpt

Read the first pages of The Fury



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