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Lie to Me


Lie to Me

LIE TO ME is what you want to read right now. Not only will it help you shake off the doldrums of the closing days of summer, it will also erase your complacency, occupy your waking (and yes, your sleeping) moments, and restore the joy of reading to you in the event that you lost it. It is a very different book for author J.T. Ellison, taking place outside of the universes of the fine police procedural series that she has written and co-written while striding confidently into the domestic thriller subgenre and beyond.

That is not to say that LIE TO ME abandons police procedure entirely. Not at all. The focus, however, is on an extremely well-to-do married couple who have separate careers as authors. Ethan Montclair is an author of literary, or “serious,” fiction, highly regarded for a novel he had written a few years ago that was a critical and commercial success. Sutton Montclair is an author of genre fiction that has gained her popular acclaim with historical romance readers but not the critical acclaim that her husband accepts as his rightful due.

"[E] perfectly paced, so that you can’t put down LIE TO ME once you start it, even if you must... This is the book that will be on everyone’s eyes --- and lips --- for weeks and months to come."

As we meet Ethan, Ellison does a masterful job of showing (as opposed to telling) readers the shambles of the Montclairs’ lives together, which is hidden (though not well) behind the wealthy veneer of their fashionable, million-dollar home in Franklin, an understated but tony suburb of southern Nashville where legends in the country music world hide in plain sight.

However good or bad her books might be, Sutton writes a terrific goodbye letter to Ethan that is short and sweet, telling him that she needs to get away and not to look for her. Ethan calls the police, Sutton’s friends and her mother, making for an interesting set of characters. The friends and mother give double earfuls to the police about the relationship between the two, and the fact that there were several domestic disturbance calls to the address --- not to mention the bloodstain on the marble kitchen countertop --- don’t help matters any.

Ethan goes from being a strong person of interest to the only suspect when, a few days after Sutton’s disappearance, a woman’s deteriorating body is found in a field just outside Franklin. Holly Graham, the investigating officer, is all but certain that Ethan is the doer. The information that he blamed Sutton for the sudden death of their infant child seems to cement their case, leading to his arrest.

But then Ellison totally flips the script in ways that you can’t expect. Seriously. I guessed part of what happens within the first quarter of the book, but that knowledge didn’t help me; it actually took me in a totally different direction. After setting off firecrackers throughout the second half, Ellison lights some bottle rockets in the closet of the closing pages in the event that the book doesn’t contain enough surprises for the reader’s money. As if. She even unleashes one major surprise at the end of the last page.

Oh, and everything --- and I mean everything --- is perfectly paced, so that you can’t put down LIE TO ME once you start it, even if you must (there’s no way you will want to). This is the book that will be on everyone’s eyes --- and lips --- for weeks and months to come.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on September 7, 2017

Lie to Me
by J.T. Ellison