LIES by T.M. Logan
St. Martin’s; 9/11/18
CBTB Rating: 2.75/5
The Verdict: binge-able suspense with a disappointing final twist
The more psychological thrillers I read, the more convinced I am that the line between fair play and far-fetched twists is a very important one. There seems to be increasing pressure on psychological thrillers to deliver that jaw-dropping, never-saw-it-coming twist… but what happens when that twist is impossible to predict because it’s disconnected from the rest of the story? After all, any finale can be hard to predict if the reader isn’t given even a chance at puzzling it out over the course of the novel. And really, one of the greatest joys of crime fiction is being given those clues alongside the protagonist—the best books are just sly enough that you won’t figure the mystery out, even though the clues were there all along, but you’ll love each moment of the investigative process. So what then are we to make of T.M. Logan’s buzzy psychological thriller LIES? I’ve heard raves of this book from friends across the pond and early readers here in the US alike, but my reading experience was unfortunately less than stellar. Though undeniably binge-worthy and easy to devour, LIES was quite significantly spoiled for this reader thanks to an entirely out-of-left-field finale - a conclusion so dramatic and over-the-top I couldn’t help but feel I’d been duped. There’s no fair play here, just shock value. If you’re a reader who considers that fair play important, you’ll want to avoid LIES—you will very likely be frustrated by its bizarre and melodramatic finale. If, however, you’re just in it for the entertainment value - and there’s absolutely no shame in that, I might add - LIES may deliver just enough of that shock value to make it worth your while. However, I would recommend adding this one to your library list rather than purchasing a copy - it may work for you in the end, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable sending you out to spend your hard-earned money on it.
Six days ago, Joe Lynch was a happily married man, a devoted father, and a respected teacher living in a well-to-do London suburb. But that was before he spotted his wife’s car entering a hotel parking garage. Before he saw her in a heated argument with her best friend’s husband. Before Joe confronted the other man in an altercation where he left him for dead, bleeding and unconscious.
Now, Joe’s life is unraveling. His wife has lied to him. Her deception has put their entire family in jeopardy. The man she met at the hotel has vanished. And as the police investigate his disappearance, suspicion falls on Joe.
Unable to trust the woman he loves, Joe finds himself at the mercy of her revelations and deceits, unsure of who or what to believe. All he knows is that her actions have brought someone dangerous into their lives―someone obsessed with her and determined to tear Joe’s world apart.
What if your whole life was based on LIES?
Let me preface this whole review by saying: I love a good plot twist, but I love it when that twist is done right. There’s nothing better than reading a suspense novel only to discover that the mystery’s conclusion is something totally shocking and thoroughly grounded in clues the author has been leaving for the reader throughout the novel. When I reach a book’s twist, I want to be totally shocked, and I also want to be able to look back and see how cleverly the author hinted at that solution throughout the book without me even noticing. Now, I understand that’s a tall order - but books are expensive, and CBTB readers deserve the best! With that criteria in mind, LIES by T.M. Logan just doesn’t quite make the cut; frankly, it doesn’t hold up against the numerous, expertly-plotted psychological thrillers that have released this year alone. (Check out THE LAST TIME I LIED by Riley Sager and/or OUR HOUSE by Louise Candlish for a few such examples!) That’s not to say it isn’t without its own value, though, and readers seeking a dramatic binge-read may enjoy it yet.
For those of us who read extensively within the domestic thriller genre, the setup of LIES will feel quite familiar. When protagonist Joe Lynch spots his wife in a heated argument with her best friend’s husband, this chance encounter sets in motion a series of increasingly sinister events… Joe’s marriage quickly begins to unravel, and revelations come to light that suggest his beloved wife has been hiding life-altering secrets from her spouse. Right off the bat, readers might have the sneaking suspicion that LIES won’t be the most groundbreaking book—and they will find themselves justified in thinking so. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. As is always my mantra, it’s all about your expectations. If you are consistently a fan of psychological thrillers that center around marital secrets and are in the market for a book in this vein to add to your TBR, LIES will be right up your alley; if, however, you prefer psychological thrillers that push boundaries and explore new grounds, this book will be best avoided. Much of LIES develops as we would expect it to: in the fallout of this troubling encounter, Joe discovers that everything he holds dearest in his life might be based on (true to the book’s title!) lies, and he goes down the rabbit hole trying to uncover just what - if anything - in his life is as he believed it to be. There’s an undeniable entertainment value to LIES that will suit readers to whom this “tried and true” domestic thriller setup appeals; T.M. Logan writes with swift pacing that lends itself to binge-reading. Despite some of my personal hesitations about this book, I would be remiss not to praise the book’s page-turning plotting—I devoured LIES in just a couple sittings, and found it to be a welcome escape from a stressful week.
Another major “pro” of LIES comes in the author’s incorporation of very timely elements - namely, social media - into the book’s central mystery. As Joe goes deeper into his investigation of his own personal life, it begins to appear that someone is threatening him - and that they are using the anonymity of social media to do so without repercussion. The social media component quickly became my favorite element of the book; as someone who (evidently!) uses social media all the time, thrillers that effectively remind us just how dangerous social media can be feel uncannily relevant. Couple the anonymity of the internet with the way it allows us to learn so much about people we don’t know, and you’ve got yourself the perfect tool for a story’s villain to terrorize a victim—and that’s exactly how the antagonist of LIES uses it. From an apparent hacker accessing Joe’s Facebook account to bizarre messages following Joe on social platforms, the ubiquity of social media and its pervasiveness in Joe’s life quickly turns sinister. Viewed through this lens, social media really does become quite disturbing; after all, just as Joe can easily be tracked and targeted on his social media accounts, so too could most of us. Logan makes social media an indispensable piece of this thriller, and it’s one of the strongest selling points this story has to offer. Though perhaps a touch dramatic at times, there’s an undeniable relevance and authenticity to this component of the story that makes it genuinely chilling and gripping.
So what made me so lukewarm about LIES? The vast majority of this book is inoffensive if a bit predictable at its worst, binge-worthy and easy to devour at its best. Had it not been for the final 40-odd pages of LIES, my final review of this thriller would look a whole lot different than the review you are currently reading. So averse was I to the book’s finale that I’ve actually had to actively remind myself just how much I didn’t hate the book’s preceding 380-odd pages to make this review balanced. Because it’s true: there’s a lot of entertainment value to be enjoyed in the majority of this book. However, a finale this bizarre can’t be ignored. With the book’s conclusion, the author seems determined to shock readers at any cost - no matter what has to be sacrificed. In this case, what’s sacrificed is logic and plotting. There’s just no rhyme or reason for the way LIES wraps up; try as I might, I can only find one very tiny clue placed earlier in the story that would in any way allude to this shocking finale. Your acceptance of this finale will be determined entirely - and I mean entirely - by how important you consider that “fair play” idea I mentioned earlier—that is, the idea that an author should give the reader a fair shot at piecing together the story’s finale thanks to clues left throughout the novel. I’m “team fair play,” if you will, and my tolerance for this story’s finale was close to zero. On the other hand, there’s absolutely no shame in simply wanting an entertaining and jaw-dropping finale, and if that describes you, you’re likely to find the LIES conclusion quite entertaining indeed—it certainly fulfills the shock value requirement and then some. I’m confident there will be many readers for whom the addictive pacing and easy-to-binge entertainment value of LIES will make it very well suited, I simply wasn’t one of them.
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: 432 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (September 11, 2018)
Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.