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by Claire Mackintosh
Berkley, March 2018
400 pages
ISBN: 0451490533

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

As the novel opens, Anna, the primary narrator, is attempting to cope with the fact that it is the first anniversary of her mother's suicide, a mother who followed her husband and Anna's father off the cliff at Beachy Head just seven months after he plunged to his death. Anna is nursing a newborn girl, but, reasonably enough, is having difficulty coming to terms with her loss and forgiving her parents. Her partner Mark, a grief counsellor, can only offer sage advice that she cannot take. When she receives a "Happy Anniversary" card with a note that simply says, "Suicide? Think again," it comes almost as a relief. Her mother did not abandon her to join her father in death - she was murdered.

Anna packs up her infant daughter Ella, takes her dog and sets off for the police station, where she confides her suspicions to the second point of view character, Murray Mackenzie, a nice middle-aged community support officer who has his own problems - his wife Sarah whom he loves dearly is gravely ill. He has no real authority, but on the other hand, he has both intelligence and time on his hands to devote to at least looking into Anna's allegation.

There is a third narrator, this one, like Anna, speaking in the first person. It will be a while before the identity of the speaker is revealed.

Once the point of view characters are established, the reader will recognize a pattern that has become increasingly popular since GONE GIRL first hit the bestseller lists. Multiple narrators, whom to trust? Anna seems to be losing her grip early on, imagining that her mother is attempting to communicate with her from beyond the grave. Still she perseveres in her attempt to convince someone, anyone, but mostly the police that her mother was murdered. Bits of this provide a nice gothic frisson. But midway through the book there is a startling turn of events that proves to be only the first of several shocks.

There are more twists to come, right up to the last page. It is difficult to talk about why these are infuriating without revealing too much about them and wrecking the hoped-for effect, but as a device they act to undermine any serious concern with character and motivation. The characters appear like game pieces moved around a Snakes and Ladders board by the unseen hand of someone who doesn't like them very much.

Furthermore, and this is even more difficult to discuss given the risk of spoilers, LET ME LIE takes a very dim view of its women characters, given that the author is female. I suspect that this may be down to commercial rather than philosophical considerations, but on the basis of this novel, I have no way of being sure.

LET ME LIE is Claire Mackintosh's third thriller. The previous two were best-sellers. The first, I LET YOU GO, was Theakston's Crime Novel of the year in 2016. In an article in the Irish e-zine Writing.ie for Novemeber 10 2014, she looks at what she learned as she worked on it:

I had painstakingly sketched out an overview of each chapter, and the scenes therein, but failed to leave myself enough flexibility for the characters to make their own decisions. Their personalities had evolved as the story progressed, yet I was forcing them to do things that were wildly out of character, simply to fit with my plan. I had to go back to basics and work through the story again in their eyes, letting them make the choices that were most natural for them. It's not a mistake I plan to make again!

She may not have planned it, but it seems to have happened all the same.

Yvonne Klein is a writer, translator, and retired college English professor who lives in Montreal. She's been editing RTE since 2008.

Reviewed by Yvonne Klein, March 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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