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The Lies I Tell


The Lies I Tell

Julie Clark follows up her critically acclaimed and instant bestseller THE LAST FLIGHT with THE LIES I TELL, a feminist, urgent call for justice, told in two distinct, unputdownable storylines.

Ten years ago, Kat Roberts was an ambitious reporter helping a more senior journalist cover the explosive case of a school principal who was found to have been grooming and coercing underage girls into sexual relationships. In her research on the accused, Cory Dempsey, Kat discovered someone far more interesting: Cory’s girlfriend, Meg Williams, who is believed to have blown the whistle on her creepy beau and potentially saved dozens of young ladies from his predatory ways.

However, following a tip from Meg, Kat put her life and her career at risk. For the last decade, Kat has kept tabs on the conniving, potentially heroic woman, desperate to ruin Meg’s life the same way she ruined Kat’s. So when Meg emerges in sunny Los Angeles as a real estate agent working under her own name, Kat knows this is her chance to seek justice. But that will mean figuring out who Meg really is and who her target has been all along.

"Once again, Clark has penned a razor-sharp, character-driven domestic suspense that thrills as easily as it encourages its readers to second-guess themselves, their moral compasses and their definitions of justice."

Jumping back to October 2009, we meet a young Meg, who is still struggling through ever-increasing payments for her mother’s funeral. Her relatively plain appearance in her youth has allowed her an unfiltered gaze into the workings of the world, starting with her teacher, Mr. Dempsey. Meg, who carried her books not in a backpack but in a grocery store bag, found a quiet support in popular girl Kristen, who cited “girl code” as her moral compass. But when Kristen disappeared in the middle of the school year and Mr. Dempsey relocated, Meg saw the hints of a scandal. Soon after, Meg's mother was swindled out of her family home and her own future by a charming man named Ron Ashton. Meg realized that women can expect very little from men but heartache and devastation, and she began to train herself in exposing them.

Now a 21-year-old bombshell who is adept at mining social media clues to unravel the innermost secrets, desires and tells of men, Meg has developed a steady system of conning men out of free dinners to supplement living in her van and working morning shifts at a YMCA. But when she spots Mr. Dempsey on a dating website, she sees an opportunity to right a wrong and deliver a Robin Hood–esque justice to herself and teenage Kristen. She just can’t predict how far her plan will take her.

Still reeling from the trauma of her investigation into Meg 10 years ago, Kat has become a woman molded by her fears. But she has remained steadfast in her only goal: outing Meg for the con artist she is and making her pay for the direction her life has taken. So when she tracks Meg to a fundraiser for local politician Ron Ashton, her plan seems easy. She knows that Meg has held several different identities over the years and has likely swindled countless men and women out of their lives and livelihoods. When she hires Meg to be her own real estate agent, Kat believes that she can use this closeness to better predict Meg’s next steps.

But Kat soon realizes that nothing is black and white for the accomplished con artist, including justice, and that maybe, just maybe, she’s been angry at the wrong person all along. At the same time, Meg has her own reasons for reemerging with her real name and with a real connection to her past in Ron Ashton. Her greatest con yet will take her to new, death-defying lengths and push her talents as a con artist to their limits. Clark exposes a world controlled by men, where women must think two steps ahead to succeed and are simultaneously labeled as conniving and manipulative for doing so. As Kat and Meg develop a close friendship, the lies and histories stack up until nothing is clear, except the path to revenge.

Once again, Clark has penned a razor-sharp, character-driven domestic suspense that thrills as easily as it encourages its readers to second-guess themselves, their moral compasses and their definitions of justice. Having already exposed the dark corners of a world ready to take advantage of desperate women in THE LAST FLIGHT, Clark here turns her gaze inward and asks what women are willing to sacrifice in the pursuit of revenge. She is a skillful, taut and clever plotter of mysteries and psychological thrills, but it is her multifaceted, complex and incredibly layered characters who elevate her novels to something totally fresh and original.

I found myself equally invested in and rooting for each woman in this intriguing cat-and-mouse game. The pace is breathless and unrelenting, the thrills are evenly and deliberately placed, and the character reveals are deep, emotionally resonant and keenly observed. Clark’s handling of her dual perspectives and timelines is so skilled that you barely have the sense of her pulling the strings behind the scenes, or of being led into a mystery far deeper than you originally signed up for. Yet the mastery is there, pulsing and immediate.

At the same time, Clark has managed to weave in a skewering takedown of the details we reveal on social media and how easily our own posts and check-ins can be used against us. This makes THE LIES I TELL a smart and sharp cautionary tale, as well as an utterly unputdownable thriller.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on June 24, 2022

The Lies I Tell
by Julie Clark