I pre-ordered ‘The Lies I Tell’ after being impressed by Julie Clark’s last novel, ‘The Flight’. After a novel as good as ‘The Flight’, I knew it would be s a challenge for Julie Clark to bring out something that matched it for originality, tension and complete absorption in the lives of others. It was a challenge that she met in full. I started ‘The Lies I Tell’ on a long drive and got so hooked that I read two-thirds of the novel on the first day and was still on the edge of my seat, eager to see how everything unfolds.
‘The Lies I Tell’ Is a story of a long con that has the momentum of a slick heist movie. You can see all the pieces being put together with competence and daring to pull off a con that requires everything to be planned in detail and to be perfectly executed and even then will need a little luck to succeed. Julie Clark cranks up the tension in several ways: firstly, the reader is never certain what the end game is – what success looks like for the person running the con; secondly, we get to see more than one con, each one revealed a little bit at a time, establishing the con-artist’s competence and hinting at possible outcomes without giving a definitive answer; thirdly, there are two cons going on at the same time, one by the con artist and one by a woman trying covertly to get close enough to her to take her down.
The cleverness of the plot was a joy, it kept me guessing and guessing again. Then there was the emotional uplift that came from seeing plausibly abusive men, with a history of harming women, being taken down by a woman who they fail to recognise as a threat. Then there was the lying. The reader knows that both of the main women characters are lying about who they are and what they want. Each of the women also knows the other is a liar. What is constantly, deliciously, tantalisingly unclear is when they are lying and why they are lying. The women are not the only liars. The men around them also lie and cheat. The women don’t always lie to each other, which makes it harder to know what any exchange means. Most importantly, the motives of the two main players don’t become fully clear until the final chapters of the novel.
In addition to all that, what made the book fly for me, was the way that Julie Clark made me care about the two main women, both as individuals and in how they related to each other. Both women have had terrible experiences with men. Both have cause to seek revenge. In principle, one is a con artist and one is an avenger. In practice, that distinction breaks down.
In the end, everything comes back to intent. It’s not the lies these women tell that are important but why they tell them. The answer to that question provided a splendid resolution to an original and surprising thriller that got better and better as the book went on. Even when I was ninety per cent through the book, I was still having to guess at the resolution. When it came, it was worth the wait and put everything that went before it into perspective.
I recommend the audiobook version of ‘The Lies I tell’. Lauryn Allman did a splendid job, managing to provide appropriate and distinctive voices for the main female characters and credible voices for the men. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample.