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An Honest Lie


An Honest Lie

AN HONEST LIE is another pulse-pounding thriller from Tarryn Fisher. The author of THE WRONG FAMILY and THE WIVES returns with a story of a woman who has spent years running from her troubled past, only to come face to face with a monster from her childhood during a girls’ weekend in Las Vegas.

Rainy, short for Lorraine, is an artist famous for her metal sculptures. Like the pieces she creates, she’s tough to read and full of hard edges. That makes her a bit of an odd duck in her new home on Tiger Mountain in Washington State. She’s left Manhattan’s glittering art world behind to live with her boyfriend, Grant, a wealthy collector who bought one of her sculptures. Her new life with Grant means new friends as well, many of whom have known each other for years. Rainy is a loner, and she’s ill at ease in the clique. When the other women invite her on a weekend trip to Vegas, her initial instinct is to beg off. But under pressure from Grant, she reluctantly agrees to go.

"[T]he tension ratchets up in the story’s latter third, as Rainy confronts the book’s main villain in a battle of wits and wills that ends with a gruesome climax."

The getaway is awkward from the start. The normally friendly Braithe is acting odd, queen bee Tara is shooting daggers at Rainy, and the two other women are trying to stay out of the drama. “This trip, this gaudy, neon-crusted city, these women,” a miserable Rainy thinks to herself. To make matters worse, the visit to Nevada is an unwelcome homecoming of sorts, though no one else knows it, including Grant. As a child, Rainy and her mother, Lorraine, fled California following her father’s death. They ended up outside of Sin City in a community led by a childhood friend of Lorraine’s named Taured. It’s supposed to be a refuge, but it turns out to be a cult.

Fisher toggles back and forth between the past and the present, as Rainy’s weekend-from-hell in Vegas is juxtaposed with flashbacks to her childhood in the compound outside of Friendship, a dead-end, speck-on-the-map desert town. Taured and his followers have taken up residence in an old prison (a detail that’s a bit too on the nose). At first, Rainy --- then going by her birth name of Summer --- loves it. Her mother is less enthusiastic. “Don’t trust anyone here,” she warns. But Lorraine has no other options. By the time mother and daughter realize what Taured is really up to, it’s impossible to leave, though Rainy eventually is able to break free.

Back in Nevada as an adult, the “gaudy lights and silent desert” are a backdrop to Rainy’s gradually unfolding nightmare. Braithe vanishes after a miserable night out at a cheesy bar and a visit to a psychic. (Introverts will cringe in commiseration with Rainy, who just wants to head back to the hotel suite and go to bed.) Could her disappearance be linked to Rainy’s past? Fisher takes her time in drawing out the connection in this initially slow-moving novel. But the tension ratchets up in the story’s latter third, as Rainy confronts the book’s main villain in a battle of wits and wills that ends with a gruesome climax.

Rainy is a compelling heroine --- strong, smart and savvy --- and readers will want to root for her. Taured is suitably creepy as a David Koresh-like cult leader, and his uncanny ability to psychologically manipulate his followers provide some of the novel’s most unsettling moments. An entire book set in his weird desert compound would be worth a read. The drama between the Tiger Mountain women is less interesting and more predictable, but Fisher has a canny grasp on the sometimes strange dynamics of female friendship.

Reviewed by Megan Elliott on April 29, 2022

An Honest Lie
by Tarryn Fisher