#Thriller Thursday #Book Review #The Lies I told by Mary Burton @Montlake

From the blurb:

For a woman obsessed and a killer in her shadow, remembering the past becomes a mind game in a novel of psychological suspense by New York Times bestselling author Mary Burton.

Twin sisters Marisa and Clare Stockton were sixteen when Clare’s body was found in Virginia’s James River. No arrests were made. Fourteen years later, Marisa’s friends and dedicated career as a photographer help her to cope with the open wound of the past. But Marisa still feels the hurt—and the unsolved murder isn’t the only thing haunting her.

A recent car crash has erased ten days of Marisa’s memories—a black hole leading up to the accident that’s left her disoriented. Every text and phone call from that crucial missing time has vanished, along with her phone. A photograph she took of the river has disappeared. A new neighbor Marisa believes she knows introduces himself as if he were a stranger. And there’s the growing fear that her near-fatal accident was no accident at all. As dreams of Clare and nightmares of the crash begin to converge, so do two disturbing puzzles fourteen years apart.

Putting the pieces together could be fatal. As she struggles to remember everything, Marisa closes in on a killer—without realizing that he’s already closed in on her.

My thoughts:

I have only recently discovered Mary Burton’s books, although she is a very experienced (and prolific!) author.

You can tell it straightaway that The Lies I Told is well-written. Mary Burton even manages to pull off all the multiple POVs. The characters are intriguing, but we’re told just enough about them, only what we need to know for the sake of unravelling their secrets and solving the core mystery. Above all, where the author’s skill shows the most is the topic: a woman is still desperate to solve her twin sister’s murder fourteen years after the tragic event and, on top of it all, she is also suffering from amnesia following a sinister car accident! Our fascination with identical twins is endless, especially when one of them is missing and the other one keeps going on, living their life, growing old…

Clare Stockton was just sixteen when she went missing. Four days later her body was found in the river nearby. Fourteen year later Clare’s case is about to be re-classified as cold. The murderer has never been found and it seems that everybody has moved on and let the past go. Everyone, but Marisa, Clare’s twin sister. It is the twins’ thirtieth birthday and their older sister Brit has invited their old friends: BFF Jo-Jo (‘the airhead’), Brit’s ex-boyfirend bad boy Jack who did a couple years in prison and nowadays happens to be Jo-Jo’s husband, Clare’s boyfriend sad and serious Kurt, and Brit’s new man David. Marisa is still recovering from a car accident that left a ten day hole in her memory. Marisa is serious about her sobriety, having spent years struggling with alcohol and drug abuse, but not everyone thinks (or wants her to) she can turn her life round.

The plot was intriguing, but the pace was a bit too slow in the first third of the book. There was a lot of potential, and yet, something was missing. Marisa is a wedding photographer, but in her spare time she takes pictures of the place where her sister’s lifeless body was disposed of by the murderer(s)- imagine the suspense, the tension that could have been created by exploiting this detail, but no, this skittish reader’s nerves were spared. It was as if the introduction of all these points of view drew out the exposition unnecessarily. The pace picks up in the last third when we have already discovered the reason why Clare was murdered and it is more or less clear who did it. There are a few red herring male characters, but nothing to make you doubt that you’ve solved the mystery early on and are waiting for justice to run its course.

I found the fourteen year gap required a stretch of imagination. When Marisa wants to go over what happened on the day Clare went missing, her ‘friends’ are lying- well, everybody is lying in this book, this is the premise, it’s just not easy to understand what they are lying about and why– but would there be this level of detail after so much time has passed, unless ‘the memory’ takes on a life of its own and becomes a well-rehearsed story? but we also get a sense that nobody, apart from Marisa, really cares about the past anymore.

There is one incredibly unlikeable character and sometimes it felt a bit too much. We all love reading about dysfunctional families, but sometimes you really have to suspend your belief ( ‘And nobody noticed? And nobody suspected?!’). Marisa herself, on the other hand, is easy to sympathise with as she is the first one to admit her mistakes. She is also the most optimistic one, the one who believes in being able to become a better version of oneself. I would have liked more depth in the villain- we get a few hints about their past, but not enough.

I’m glad to have discovered Mary Burton’s books- better late than never!- and would love to read more from this talented author. Thank you to NetGalley and Montlake fo the review copy provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

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    1. Exactly! Also, the protagonist is 30, so it is half of her conscious life, but there doesn’t seem to be much information about these years. Sometimes I wonder about the writing process and how authors come to certain ddecisions regarding the book structure and the narrative 🙂 Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

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