Dark, witty, and suspenseful, this literary crime thriller reminiscent of The Dinner and The Silent Wife follows a famous author whose wife—the brains behind his success—meets an untimely death, leaving him to deal with the consequences.
“Evil is a matter of opinion…”
On the surface, Henry Hayden seems like someone you could like, or even admire. A famous bestselling author who appears a modest everyman. A loving, devoted husband even though he could have any woman he desires. A generous friend and co-worker. But Henry Hayden is a construction, a mask. His past is a secret, his methods more so. No one besides him and his wife know that she is the actual writer of the novels that made him famous.
For most of Henry’s life, it hasn’t been a problem. But when his hidden-in-plain-sight mistress becomes pregnant and his carefully constructed façade is about to crumble, he tries to find a permanent solution, only to make a terrible mistake.
Now not only are the police after Henry, but his past—which he has painstakingly kept hidden—threatens to catch up with him as well. Henry is an ingenious man and he works out an ingenious plan. He weaves lies, truths, and half-truths into a story that might help him survive. But bit by bit the noose still tightens.
Smart, sardonic, and compulsively readable, here is the story of a man whose cunning allows him to evade the consequences of his every action, even when he’s standing on the edge of the abyss.
Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!
~ Sir Walter Scott
Wow. This is one. crazy. read.
There’s been a trend this year towards books that have unreliable – and unlike-able – narrators. With this book, we have Henry Hayden, a very successful author who is world-renowned, and a man with many secrets. The biggest of these is the fact that Henry is actually not the author of his very successful novels – his wife, Martha, is the brains behind it all. Mix into that a demanding (and pregnant) mistress, a mysterious fishmonger best friend and an assortment of secondary characters, all of whom are hiding secrets of their own.
As I read this book, I felt like I was reading the plot to a movie – something from the 50’s, kind of film noir with a great orchestral score. Sascha Arango is a noted scriptwriter who writes for a well-known German detective drama, and that element of strong storytelling is very evident in this book. There are so many twists and turns here that Hitchcock himself would be proud, and I found myself wondering just how Henry might get out of each new predicament. As events happen, Henry reacts, but his reactions cause more events to occur, and he must juggle all the balls in the air in order to keep up the façade.
I found it hard to like anyone in this book, but I have a feeling that I might have had the most sympathy for Martha if we had been given more detail about her. I think that she really did love Henry, and that she didn’t care about his amoral behaviours. I also believe that Henry loved Martha in his own way, as much as he was able. I can’t say much about Martha, but she intrigued me to no end. There’s also a dark humour in this book that made me laugh out loud an unexpected times; I’m still not sure if it was out of nervousness and stress release. I loved Henry’s comments about being a writer, and just how many of the classic clichés he spouted to his fans. I also enjoyed the way the police detective was portrayed, especially considering the author’s day job!
There’s some beautiful writing in this book, in that Arango manages to convey a great deal through very little description. We have a sense of the town where Henry and Martha live, of the fishmonger’s store, of the publisher’s office and of each of the characters we meet, but we know how they are instinctively, rather than through vivid and flowing descriptive passages. The imagery is stark and bleak and completely compelling; I’ll admit that I stayed up much too late reading this, simply because I could feel the suspense building in me as the story progressed.
If you read The Dinner, The Girl on the Train, Before I Go to Sleep or The Silent Wife, then this is a great read to take with you to the cottage, to the beach or for the front porch. You will not look at your neighbours the same way, and you’ll certainly wonder about the true lives of your favourite authors!
“The liars among us will know that every lie must contain a certain amount of truth if it’s to be convincing. A dash of truth is often enough, but it’s indispensable, like the olive in the Martini.”
The Truth and Other Lies is out now from Penguin Canada. A copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. ISBN: 9781476795553, 256 pages.