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“It’s okay if I know it’s a lie, as long as my target audience believes the lie and buys the product.”

Targeted Demographics

Targeted Demographics is Joseph Sciuto’s fast-paced psychological thriller narrated by Joe Rossetti, a highly successful marketing guru in Los Angeles. There are two lead female characters: Nancy, a brilliant but unhinged mathematical genius, and Maggie, who is Joe’s former lover and current assistant.

Each of the characters in Targeted Demographics provides a unique portrait of gray morality. Joe admits up front that he is a liar. As an advertising executive, lying is all part of the job. What if that product is a highly addictive, cancer-causing substance like tobacco? Joe doesn’t let it bother him too much, despite his on-again, off-again Catholic values. He is quick to excuse his own hypocrisy by pointing to corrupt politicians, who are also actively taking large sums of money from tobacco companies.

When Joe first meets the alluring Nancy, she is reading Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, a fitting choice for a woman with a very dark past and potentially even darker future. Nancy is a graduate of MIT and Stanford with an exceptional mind and a more rigid, black-and-white view of morality. Nancy applies her brilliant mind to a secret project that she views as a chance to annihilate evil, but it doesn’t take much imagination to see the extreme danger of her work.

Meanwhile, Joe’s assistant, Maggie, exhibits increasingly erratic behavior that is praised by her hedonistic management but is leading her on a path toward complete self-destruction. Joe casts himself as a knight in shining armor to rescue Maggie, but his own actions in Targeted Demographics are often orthogonal to this goal. The stakes are raised as the personal turmoil of our lead characters becomes criminally dangerous and three famous actors become sick with a mysterious illness.

The time period of Targeted Demographics isn’t revealed until about two-thirds into the novel, but there are plenty of clues that point the reader to the correct decade. Somehow, I think the corruption of the advertising industry portrayed here transcends any given time period.

With Targeted Demographics, Joseph Sciuto has crafted a heart-racing thriller full of psychological manipulation and misdirection. The characters occupy a spectrum of gray morality, continuously oscillating between both ends of the spectrum. The most dangerous of the characters may, in fact, be our unreliable narrator, who kept me guessing till the very last page.

Targeted Demographics

Targeted Demographics

Targeted Demographics

Targeted Demographics

Targeted Demographics

Targeted Demographics

Targeted Demographics

Targeted Demographics

John Mauro

John Mauro lives in a world of glass amongst the hills of central Pennsylvania. When not indulging in his passion for literature or enjoying time with family, John is training the next generation of materials scientists at Penn State University, where he teaches glass science and materials kinetics. John also loves cooking international cuisine and kayaking the beautiful Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.

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