"Those Who Lie" by Diane Jeffrey
Emily Klein doesn’t know her husband has died until the day of his funeral.
But, as she pieces together the events before his death – events which led to her own memory loss – Emily begins to suspect that his death may not have been such a tragic accident after all.
If only she could remember…
The question is: are there some memories which Emily should leave alone?
At the moment there is a trend to follow the title of a new books with claims of unexpected twists, psychological thrills, or that it is the next big "Gone Girl" release. Not only does "Those Who Lie" not do this, it also carries one of the most brief blurbs I have come across in a while. The effect? I want to read it even more.
"Those Who Lie" could easily carry a subtitle along the lines of "Be warned, this psychological thriller is full of secrets, lies and memories....Who do you trust when you can't even trust yourself?" It could easily add the claim that if you liked "The Girl on the Train" or love writers like Samantha Hayes or Elizabeth Haynes then this must be your next read. But it doesn't. This book relies merely on the tantalising implication that this is a story about murder, memory and nothing being as it seems. And it was that short taste of what might reveal itself in the pages of the novel (and the cover design) that attracted me to the book.
Of course, this is a great psychological thriller and yes it will sit very well alongside its contemporaries in this genre. It deserves to sell well and it deserves to be read by all fans of Grip Lit. The opening line is a killer in itself:
"Emily Klein doesn't know she has killed him until the day of his funeral. Her loved ones, including, of course, her husband, are all at the church rather than at her bedside. That explains why there are no familiar faces around her this time when she regains consciousness."
It hooked me in right away.
I really enjoyed the opening chapter. It's full of questions and Jeffrey really captures the distraught and confused state of Emily as she awakes in hospital unable to piece together why she is here, what happened, why the police are there and why her husband is not at her bedside.
"What's going on? What do the police want? Emily can't shake off the unnerving impression that something is very wrong. .............Something doesn't feel right. Emily's mind is even foggier, and she's struggling to organise her thoughts."
Just like Emily, the reader is on the edge of their seats waiting for some sort of revelation that will clarify what happened, just what the police are accusing Emily of and what events preceded the car accident. You have to wait a long time. Jeffrey reveals little clues, hints and tit bits as the plot develops and allows us to piece together a lot of the story, but don't be deceived into thinking that this book won't have some final twists and turns thrown in on the very last pages!
As with all satisfying psychological thrillers there is a dual timeline flitting between Emily's childhood in 1995 and 1996 and the present day of 2014 and 2015. Jeffrey manages both narratives really well and it is a great way of getting us to read as we try to solve the mystery facing Emily about events in the present day.
Returning to 1995 helps us get to know Emily much better as a character. Her childhood is very traumatic but it also reveals her relationships with her mother, father and sister. It helps give us a better picture of all the characters and the relationships between them. Jeffrey starts these sections with little details that immediately show the reader something unsettling is going on - I don't know if there is a word which means a 'cliffhanger in the opening line of a chapter' but if there is one, this is what Jeffrey does. Not only does she leave you wanting more at the end of each chapter, she also drags you right into the next chapter.
"Her stomach was heavy with dread. She was terrified she wouldn't be able to go through with it."
Emily's relationship with her mother Josephine is complicated. She is not portrayed as a likeable character; a drunk and a mother who turns too much of a blind eye leaves us feeling little sympathy for her and even as she appears to sober up in the present day storyline there still seems to be a huge void between mother and daughter. Like Emily, we are unable to determine exactly what is going on in Josephine's mind and exactly what she thinks about events.
"Josephine's expression is inscrutable."
The sections set in 1995 are also crucial in revealing Emily's fragile and vulnerable mental state. Jeffrey has been very ambitious with her main protagonist who suffers from depression, anorexia, a personality disorder and issues with identity. Emily has memory loss and often seems to get distracted or a little hypnotised by smells, flashes of recollection, things she thinks she sees. Her quote from Alice in Wonderland is absolutely perfect:
"I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, sir," said Alice, "because I'm not myself you see."
What is most effective about this aspect of Emily's character is that we then start to distrust her and be wary of what she perceives to be happening around her - or indeed happened to her in the past. Can we rely on her? Is she telling the truth? Is she even able to discern what is the truth and what is a dream, a memory, a false memory? And if we don't trust her, who else is there that we can trust?
And again, the quote from Alice in Wonderland encapsulates the thoughts of Emily and the reader!
"It would be nice if something made sense for a change."
This is also a novel about love. What happens when you love someone too much, when you love the wrong person, when you misjudge that love, when you can't trust yourself to love or when you are too trusting in your love that you can't see what is really going on in front of you? It is a novel about families, jealousy and revenge. It is also a novel about art and I liked the extra dimension that Emily's paintings added to the exploration of her personality - of her feelings of darkness and confusion and then the emergence into colour and light.
This novel also reminds us of the impact of social media on our lives. Facebook features as a perfect vehicle for stalking, trick playing, mind games and anonymous comments. Again, it also questions what we know, what we see, what we believe and what we are prepared to reveal to each other.
Emily and Amanda are convincing characters. I thought the relationship between them was authentic and Jeffrey manages the conflict that we see in Amanda really well. Amanda seems incredibly protective towards Emily in one way yet clearly bothered by something more underlying and, as the novel progresses, it is clear she is harbouring some deep secret.
I felt that I developed a relationship with both of them but obviously we are particularly encouraged to align ourselves with Emily despite her unreliable narrative and her delicate mental state of mind. If I had one quibble with the story is that I might have preferred the book to be in first person from Emily's point of view. This is her story and Jeffrey's use of close third person means that we hear much more from her point of view than anyone else's and often share her internal thoughts so I wonder if first person would have given Jeffrey more opportunity for this? I wonder if the use of third person creates a little bit of distance and objectiveness and actually, particularly because of Emily's depression, memory loss and confusion, a first person narrative might emphasise this further and help exaggerate the tension and suspense?
Jeffrey's control of the narrative is very effective though. She manages the two different threads of past and present well and draws everything together in a dramatic climax. I would say she finishes with a satisfying conclusion but there is nothing satisfying about the last line and there is no neat conclusion! Jeffrey pulls a great last punch in her final words.
I enjoyed "Those Who Lie". The story is well structured and contains all the ingredients for a exciting psychological thriller. There are lots of twists, turns, revelations, hidden secrets and moments of confusion which leave the reader wondering who they think is lying and who they think is telling the truth. A good first novel!
"Those Who Lie" by Diane Jeffrey is published by HQ Digital on 27th January 2017.
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