LIES SHE TOLD by Cate Holahan
Crooked Lane Books; 9/12/17
CBTB Rating: 4/5
The Verdict: addictive, obsessive psychological thriller
Cate Holahan’s LIES SHE TOLD has a little bit of just about everything that I love in a psychological thriller: a literary protagonist (the story’s main character is herself a thriller writer), a “book within a book” mystery, and red herrings and plot twists a plenty. But LIES SHE TOLD has something else, too—it has a certain intentionally and thoughtfulness to it, qualities that add a layer of intrigue to an already addictive crime novel. On sale 9/12/17, LIES SHE TOLD is pure, binge-worthy entertainment—the kind of effortlessly engaging read that can only come from the author’s intelligent plotting and careful construction. Holahan’s forthcoming thriller will be an instant-hit for fans of EXQUISITE by Sarah Stovell and THE WEIGHT OF LIES by Emily Carpenter; readers looking for an addictive, layered suspense novel will feel right at home in Holahan's world.
The truth can be darker than fiction.
Liza Cole, a once-successful novelist whose career has seen better days, has one month to write the thriller that could land her back on the bestseller list. Meanwhile, she’s struggling to start a family, but her husband is distracted by the disappearance of his best friend, Nick. As stresses weigh her down in her professional and personal lives, Liza escapes into writing the chilling exploits of her latest heroine, Beth.
Beth, a new mother, suspects her husband is cheating on her while she’s home caring for their newborn. Angry and betrayed, she aims to catch him in the act and make him pay for shattering the illusion of their perfect life. But before she realizes what she’s doing, she’s tossing the body of her husband’s mistress into the East River.
Then, the lines between Liza’s fiction and her reality eerily blur. Nick’s body is dragged from the East River, and Liza’s husband is arrested for his murder. Before her deadline is up, Liza will have to face up to the truths about the people around her, including her own. If she doesn’t, the end of her heroine’s story could be the end of her own.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again (and probably a few more times after that): there’s something especially intriguing about psychological thrillers set in the literary world, and LIES SHE TOLD by Cate Holahan is yet further proof of just how true this is. Centered around a thriller writer (Liza) struggling to get her name back on the bestseller list while her personal life crumbles around her, LIES SHE TOLD alternates between Liza’s narrative and chapters of Liza’s work in progress. Readers watch as Liza’s life begins to mirror the fiction she writes—or is it the other way around? Holahan deftly explores what it means to write fiction—where writers’ inspiration comes from and how their work can begin to take on a life of its own—in a story that’s as commercially-appealing as it is quietly thought-provoking.
Perhaps the thing that impressed me most about LIES SHE TOLD is how effortlessly it balances accessible entertainment with intelligent plotting. The ease with which readers jump between the story’s main narrative and the protagonist’s crime novel is a testament to the author’s meticulous planning and detail-oriented writing process. When I met with Cate at ThrillerFest 2017, she described the incredibly detailed strategy she used while writing what is essentially two books in one. As she explained it to me, both of the stories included in this book must both stand alone and complement one another, and she has a meticulously-organized system of ensuring that each story does exactly that. Cate’s effort pays off in a big way—LIES SHE TOLD is effortlessly engaging and totally readable. The interplay between the story’s main narrative and the protagonist’s crime novel is twisty, compelling, and wholly addictive.
Beyond the stylistic choices that make LIES SHE TOLD such an addictive read, Holahan has written a set of genuinely engaging and appealing characters: readers will love to watch the interplay of this sometimes-dramatic, sometimes-flawed, always-entertaining cast. There's something that feels made for TV about this read: it has a dash of sexual tension between characters and a whole lot of drama that could play out beautifully in a show like "How To Get Away With Murder." Readers should note that there is a quasi-romance element to this story, as Liza is herself writing a thriller with a romantic bent—personally, I'm not a romance reader, so this was the one piece of the story I didn't enjoy as much. But it's worth noting that this angle really is minimal—LIES SHE TOLD is first and foremost a twisty, suspenseful story of fact versus fiction.
Readers looking for a suspense story that's just plain fun to read - a thriller that’s fast-paced, just a touch dramatic, and layered with a “book within a book” mystery - will love Cate Holahan’s LIES SHE TOLD. Readers looking for a dark or violent psychological thriller are better off looking elsewhere (try Karin Slaughter's THE GOOD DAUGHTER); Holahan’s forthcoming thriller isn’t intended to be this kind of read. LIES SHE TOLD is pure entertainment: twisty plotting, unreliable characters, and a deep-dive into the life of a thriller writer make for an addictive, binge-worthy psychological thriller.
PLUS: Read My Interview with Cate Holahan Here!
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions my own.
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books (September 12, 2017)
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