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Friday 7 September 2018

‘Believe Me’ by J P Delaney

Published by Quercus Books,
26 July 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-78747-240-2         

One of last year’s runaway bestsellers in the thriller genre was J.P. Delaney’s The Girl Before - an intriguing exploration of obsession and deceit. Now he is back, intriguingly with a novel he first published more than a decade ago under a different name. He says he considers that book was a ‘flawed offering’. He has therefore rewritten the story from scratch, using some of the original scenes but with many more different ideas that evolved into a new plot, new characterisation and a new structure. The result is Believe Me, a psychological thriller so full of ingenious twists and switchbacks that you end up questioning everything you are reading.

Star player in this intriguing novel is Claire Wright, a British drama student in New York without a Green Card. She takes the only job she can: working for a firm of divorce lawyers posing as an easy pick-up in hotel bars to entrap straying husbands.

One of her targets then becomes a suspect in a murder investigation and Claire is asked to use her acting skills to help lure their suspect into a confession. But right from the start she has her doubts about the role she is being asked to play - is Patrick Fogler really a killer, or the only decent husband she has ever met?

Claire Wright is an intriguing character and extremely well written – it’s not that often a male author portrays a female character so well. She is needy, craves an audience, yet she knows her own faults and what drives her, and this made me fully invest and believe in her. She is dark, complex, damaged. She constantly changes the face she presents to the world, and changes her personality at will. She is interesting and made me want to turn the pages.

Patrick Fogler is a Columbia University professor specialising in the poetry of Baudelaire. Is he a murderer, as the New York Police Department believe and want to prove? Or a man for Claire to fall in love with? Or both? What about Claire – could she be the murderer the NYPD is looking for? In this novel, the unreliable narrator trope is taken to the next level. Everyone lies. Everyone tells the truth. Our expectations of the characters are swayed this way and that as Claire and Patrick engage in their dangerous danse macabre.

And the poetry of Baudelaire, more specifically his Les Fleurs du Mal, is central to the twisty plot and echo through the novel – some are graphic and brutal, some erotic, so reader beware, there are some disturbing scenes.

Believe Me is a sleek, stylish and stylistic novel, in parts confusing and needing a very large dollop of suspension of disbelief. It won’t be for everybody. But for me, it had great power and kept me reading throughout the night.
Reviewer: Mary-Jane Riley
JP Delaney is the pseudonym of an author who has previously written award-winning fiction under other names.

Mary-Jane Riley wrote her first story on her newly acquired blue Petite typewriter. She was eight. It was about a gang of children who had adventures on mysterious islands, but she soon realised Enid Blyton had cornered that particular market. So she wrote about the Wild West instead. When she grew up she had to earn a living, and became a BBC radio talk show presenter and journalist. She has covered many life-affirming stories, but also some of the darkest events of the past two decades. Then, in true journalistic style, she decided not to let the facts get in the way of a good story and got creative. She wrote for women's magazines and small presses. She formed WriteOutLoud with two writer friends to help charities get their message across using their life stories. Now she is writing psychological suspense, drawing on her experiences in journalism. The Bad Things by Mary-Jane Riley was published by Harper Collins/Killer Reads. Her second book, After She Fell, also published by Killer Reads, is out on April 28th.

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