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Thursday 20 May 2021

‘The Perfect Lie’ by Jo Spain

Published by Quercus,
13 May 2021.
ISBN: 978-1-52940-724-2 (HB)

Corruption is apparently far more common among American cops than British ones, but Danny Ryan, Erin Kennedy’s husband of only a year, is different. Or so she thinks, until the morning his colleagues arrive to arrest him, and he jumps to his death from the window of their fourth-floor apartment. From that day forward Erin is on a slippery slope, until a couple of years later she finds herself in the dock charged with murder. Her husband’s murder.

Erin’s journey from that first nightmare day to her equally nightmarish trial is charted in this twisty, carefully crafted thriller through a series of chapters which move back and forth through three-time frames. The story is half over before the relevance of one of those time frames becomes clear, but even before that, it builds layer upon layer of developments, surprises, questions and revelations, until Erin is left wondering who she can trust, and even starts to doubt herself. 

She believes totally in Danny’s innocence and is desperate to prove it, despite warnings and stonewalling from the local police force. She enlists the help of lawyer Karla, who is definitely someone you want on your side in a crisis, and barman Bud, who is much more than he appears to be. Evidence slowly emerges, some encouraging, some more disturbing, and soon there are more questions than answers. Why was Danny seeing a psychiatrist? Where did a huge, untouched sum of money in a hidden bank account come from? And where does Cal, the good-looking and, it turns out, fabulously wealthy stranger who keeps turning up in her life, fit into the picture? 

It’s set mostly against an idyllic beachfront background on Long Island, New York, where Erin moved to escape personal tragedy back home in Ireland, with occasional forays into American university life and the glamour of Las Vegas. The settings are subtly drawn but nonetheless visible to the mind’s eye; and the characters have that scratch-me-and-I-bleed quality that draws the reader into Erin’s world.

All the questions are answered eventually, but only after the tension ramps up almost to snapping point – and some of the answers are maybe not quite what Erin is looking for. The result is one of those books that will keep you up till the small hours as it gathers pace and races to a conclusion which is unexpected to say the least.

Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Jo Spain is vice-chair of business body InterTrade Ireland and a parliamentary assistant in Leinster House. Her first novel With our Blessing was published by Quercus, London and was one of seven books shortlisted in the Richard and Judy search for a bestseller competition 2014. The book is based on the investigations of a Dublin-based detective team led by Tom Reynolds. It was launched in Ireland in September 2015 and became a top-ten bestseller that month. The rights have been snapped up in Germany. Since the she has published ten further books. Jo lives in Dublin with her husband and their four young children.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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