Posted in Netgalley, Publisher Proof

The Perfect Lie by Jo Spain

This thriller kept me guessing and a couple of times, even had me going back to previous chapters so I could be sure of what I’d read! Our heroine is Erin Kennedy, an Irish girl working in publishing in NYC and living with her husband of three years out on Long Island. She narrates her story across two timelines: one is the present and Erin is on trial for murdering her husband, and the other is a year earlier around the third anniversary of her marriage to Danny, a detective from Long Island. Our second narrator is a younger woman called Ally, a PhD student and proctor at Harvard University. My confusion arose from how these characters related to each other and the author is clearly a master of telling her readers just enough to keep us reading, but not enough to ruin the later revelations, twists and turns – and there are plenty of them!

The Erin from a year before is a very different person and early on in a shock scene, Erin and Danny are starting their day at their sea front apartment when his partner turns up at the door. Ben has two uniformed cops with him and when Erin answers the door he is not his usual self. He apologises but tells her they are there to arrest Danny. Erin thinks this is some elaborate joke, but her confusion gives way to horror as she realises Ben is serious. However, instead of being confused, Danny looks guilty and scared as hell. Before Erin’s eyes Danny runs to their fourth floor balcony, apologises to her, and throws himself from the edge. Ben doesn’t let her see, and she stands a little distance away, watching with disbelief as a small crowd gathers and paramedics work on her husband. Although Ben spares her the final image of Danny, broken on the sidewalk, she already knows he’s head. Through shock, and that awful first numb state of grief, she forgets to ask why Ben turned up that morning to arrest his own partner, why they take away papers and his laptop, and exactly what Danny is supposed to have done.

Those questions do come later though, especially when Erin has that realisation, that she isn’t being afforded the same support she’s seen other police widows receive from the precinct and the other wives. It’s almost as if she’s been cut off and they’re embarrassed by her, most notably not turning up for the funeral. It doesn’t take long for her to realise she’s going to need a lawyer. The police’s attitude tells her that Danny must have been suspected of corruption, and she needs someone who knows the system. Firstly they need to find out whether she’s still entitled to a widow’s pension, but next she wants them to do some digging into exactly what Danny was being investigated for. Her journey has her asking so many questions and she starts to wonder whether she knew her husband at all. With a small trusted group of friends and her sister Tanya, she starts to piece together the truth.

By now you’ve probably noticed the glaring big question mark in this story; if Danny committed suicide, how is Erin on trial for murdering her husband? I’m not going to ruin the story for you all so I’m not going to reveal any more. This question, and many others do get answered eventually. The author’s timing, in choosing what to conceal, what to reveal and when, is absolute perfection.

It takes a while for Ally and Erin’s stories to intersect, so after every one of Ally’s chapters I was racking my brains to work out where they fit. Ally is writing her PhD on crime novels and as proctor she is charged with taking care of one student hall of residence on the campus. It’s an unusual role that seems to cover mentoring, mothering, but also showing students how to have a good time. In fact, Ally’s hall parties have become so renowned that girls from other blocks want to get in on the guest list – so many that they’ve had to place a restriction on the amount of invites they can have per girl. We meet her as she tries to support a girl called Lauren, an undergraduate, who has been the victim of a crime. Luckily, Ally knows someone who may be able to help, and she offers to bring her boyfriend in to help with results neither of them expect.

I did struggle to understand Erin at times and her decision making. Of course she’s in shock and shouldn’t be making decisions anyway, but there were times when I was screaming at her not to do something. There was an element of her drifting along, rather than making well thought out decisions. Her grief is complicated by the manner of Danny’s death, but also because she’s angry he made this choice to lie to her, leave her behind and leave her haunted by that final image of him disappearing over their balcony. I think her confusion over where to be and who to spend time with was well done. To be with his family is difficult because their grief is different and not complicated by betrayal. She is shunned by the other detective’s wives so seeing them makes her angry. She feels abandoned in a country that isn’t her own, and she gathers a disparate group of new friends who offer support. There’s Bud, the owner of their local bar, her new firecracker of a lawyer, Karla, Danny’s psychotherapist and a man called Cal who knew Danny. These people seem to keep her afloat, but I didn’t trust anyone and treated all of them with suspicion. In feeling angry and betrayed with the one man she thought she knew, and his police colleagues, is she in danger of trusting all the wrong people? I found her story entertaining, compelling and the author paced it well. This would be a great read by the pool this summer and you’ll probably find yourself reading it in a couple of sittings, because like me, you’ll want to know exactly what’s going on. This book is a rollicking good thriller, that I’m sure you’re going to enjoy this summer.

Author:

Hello, I am Hayley and I run Lotus Writing Therapy and The Lotus Readers blog. I am a counsellor, workshop facilitator and avid reader.

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