Today’s read is a book the Puzzle Doctor recently highly recommended. His review came to my attention when I had finished another modern crime novel and I was pondering what new modern crimes novels I could try next. Incidentally we did decide on a deal that if I tried this book, then the Puzzle Doctor would try Yrsa’s Sigurdardottir Why did you lie? (2016). Not my usual way to decide on reading a book, I grant you, but it seems to have worked out okay at my end. I can only hope the Puzzle Doctor enjoys his end of the bargain.
Let Me Lie (2018) is voiced by numerous narrators, some more easy to identify than others. One of the main narrators is Anna, who is a new mum and in a relationship with her ex-counsellor and her narrative begins on the one year anniversary of her mother’s death. Her mother is presumed to have jumped off a cliff, due to extreme grief from having lost her husband 6 months earlier when he too had jumped off the same cliff. Both deaths are deemed to be suicides. But Anna is not as sure and alarm bells definitely start ringing within her when she receives a card in the post saying: ‘Suicide – Think again.’ Other incidents follow which seem to push Anna closer and closer to the edge and tension mounts as it increasingly seems she cannot trust those around her. In the midst of all this is Murray Mackenzie who is a retired police officer, who still works at the local police station as a civilian. He has personal troubles of his own and decides to reinvestigate this case unbeknownst to his superiors as a way of coping. I can’t say too much about the other narrators in this story in terms of specifics, but suffice to say they all have their own investment in the drama and have a strong propensity to mislead, culminating in the highly dramatic ending.
Looking over this book as a whole I think its strength lies in its ending, which takes around a third of the book, in which a series of twists unfold at a rapid rate of knots, making you revise everything that has gone before it and this was the part of the book which most grabbed me.
It wasn’t that I disliked the rest of the book, but I found the middle section to drag a bit. Having multiple narrators in a book is always an interesting feature, as you get to see events from different perspectives, but I felt in this instance it hampered the pacing. Mackintosh is good at writing slippery narratives, using narrator voices in a deceptive manner. She certainly had me fooled on a number of points, though I did the see the mid-book twist coming. However I didn’t always find the writing style across the narrators to be equally strong. Anna and Murray’s sections are the strongest ones in my opinion, whilst I felt some of the others were a bit more filled with clichés.
Yet it cannot be said that the book lacks when it comes to tension and atmosphere. Mackintosh very carefully sets up the unnerving events which happen to Anna, allowing for a sinister and ordinary explanation, all the while making you wonder whether someone close to her is really responsible for it all. The first half of the book focuses on exploring what has happened to Anna’s parents, whilst the second half deals with the surprising fallout, which incidentally makes you revise some of your conclusions from the first half of the book.
Out of all the characters I think Murray is my favourite, as he is someone you can very easily engage with and become invested in. I probably had more mixed feelings towards Anna, but then I find this can happen with me when it comes to fictional heroines in distress. Events tend to happen to her rather than her own actions propelling the story along.
I think my final rating is influenced by Mackintosh’s entertaining flair for the dramatic and for the series of twists she pulls on the reader and I am sure in the way one cannot forget the twist of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926), the surprises she unfurls here will stay with me for quite a while.
Incidentally, if you’re interested in buying a copy of this book, there are now editions which include a bonus scene.