A dejected filmmaker lets his curiosity get the best of him and plunges into a web of depravity and danger from which there might be no escape.
Theo Snyder is at the end of his rope. One minute he was on top of the world, his documentary film The Basement a massive critical and commercial hit, the next crestfallen when his latest film was canceled after an embarrassingly public misstep. As his desperation grows, he makes a bold decision: to pursue the story of the notorious “Halo Killer,” Jasper Ross-Johnson. But delving into the life and mind of a serial killer could prove more deadly than Theo ever could have imagined.
At first, things are looking up. Jasper is willing to talk, the footage of the jailhouse meetings is spectacular, and famed investigator Zora Neale Monroe joins him on the project. Theo is sure he’s getting close to something no one else has discovered: the truth about why Jasper was captured before he could kill his final victim. Someone else was on the beach that day, someone who knows a lot more than they’re telling and just might know how it all happened. The truth could lead to more killing–unless Theo can uncover the real ending to the story of the Halo Killer first.
This was a surprisingly addictive thriller with my favourite kind of narrator- yes, the unreliable one- who managed to confuse me to the point of not being able to predict what was going to happen next page, chapter or at the end of the book. Theo Snyder took me on a wild ride and I mostly enjoyed it.
So, what was the book about? Theo Snyder, a documentary filmmaker who had his five minutes of fame and even became a household name when his documentary was on Netflix. He was LA’s golden boy and it seemed he couldn’t have put his foot down wrong. He did, although we don’t find out straightaway what happened. When we meet Theo at the beginning of the book, he is on a hunt for his next project and it might be his last chance to salvage whatever remains of his once illustrous carreer. When a convicted serial killer contacts him and asks to tell his story, Theo isn’t sure at first. The topic isn’t new, so unless Theo comes up with a new fascinating angle, nobody’s going to be interested. If Theo is good at anything, it is getting stories out of people, andhis gut instinct is telling him he just needs to dig deeper and discover not what Jasper Ross-Johnson did or why he did it, but what stopped him in the end, what was his undoing, his cryptonite. With the support of one of his rich and well-connected producer friends, Theo hires the best investigator in LA, Zora Monroe, and off he goes in search of the perfect story with the perfect ending. He discovers (or he thinks he discovers) the events are connected to a new-born baby girl being abandoned in an outhouse on the beach where coincidentally one of Jasper’s victims was found. The baby was adopted and given name of Miracle Jones.
It becomes very clear that Theo isn’t just passionate about his work, he is obsessed, even driven. His exhaustion and sleep deprivation mean he begins to lose bits of his own narrative, however hard he tries to put it all together into a coherent whole. The pace and rhythm of the book make you feel as if you are watching and trying to make sense of unedited film footage. Theo isn’t exactly blessed with excessive modesty, so he even thinks a fellow filmmaker has started making a documentary on him. If you like unreliable narrators and trying to piece together what is real and what is ‘fed in’ and who is playing who at any point of this thriller, Let Her Lie might be a book for you.
This isn’t a character-driven story, despite Theo looming large and overshadowing everybody else. The character who potentially could develop the most is Miracle, but we do not interact much with her, we see her through the lens of other people’s anecdotes or opinions, and we never feel we finally see what ‘really’ happened. Past is always remembered and re-created in a subjective way, which is easier to accept when we are talking about fiction, but is nevertheless true for all films and books, whether the writer had a lot of information to work with or had to rely on ‘the internal logic of events’.
The ending delivered a few final twists and it was almost too much for me. I felt like poor Theo who kept seeng clues which needed to be interpreted and re-interpreted time after time. But the last page was kind of satisfying and brought it all in focus once again.
Overal, I did enjoy this fast-paced, twisty story with its pervasive subtle irony. This is a story that never takes itself seriously and doesn’t work too hard to make you like its characters. Of course, this is just my subjective take!
Thank you to Edelweiss and Crooked Lane Books for the review copy provided in exchange for an honest opinion.
- How do you feel about unreliable narrators? Are there any books with them that you particularly liked and would recommend?
- Is it important for a book to have likeable characters?