THE TRUTH AND OTHER LIES by Sascha Arango
Dark, witty, and suspenseful, this literary crime thriller reminiscent of The Dinner and The Silent Wife follows a famous author whose wife—the brains behind his success—meets an untimely death, leaving him to deal with the consequences.
On the surface, Henry Hayden seems like someone you could like, or even admire. A famous bestselling author who appears a modest everyman. A loving, devoted husband even though he could have any woman he desires. A generous friend and coworker. But Henry Hayden is a construction, a mask. His past is a secret, his methods more so. No one besides him and his wife know that she is the actual writer of the novels that made him famous.
For most of Henry’s life, it hasn’t been a problem. But when his hidden-in-plain-sight mistress becomes pregnant and his carefully constructed facade is about to crumble, he tries to find a permanent solution, only to make a terrible mistake.
Now not only are the police after Henry, but his past—which he has painstakingly kept hidden—threatens to catch up with him as well. Henry is an ingenious man and he works out an ingenious plan. He weaves lies, truths, and half-truths into a story that might help him survive. But bit by bit the noose still tightens.
Smart, sardonic, and compulsively readable, here is the story of a man whose cunning allows him to evade the consequences of his every action, even when he’s standing on the edge of the abyss.
Since I’ll be at attendance at this year’s Thrillerfest tomorrow, I thought this was the perfect review for the occasion..
Unreliable narrators are commonplace in Edgar Allen Poe’s stories, where the whole story is written from the demented viewpoint of a raging murderer. Along the same lines, writer Sascha Arango’s new thriller novel The Truth and Other Lies is a story that is reminiscent of the shy, introverted artist’s Margaret Keane’s predicament in the film Big Eyes (based loosely around the real story of the artist of the iconic big-eyed children paintings), in that the story’s sociopath main character/unreliable narrator openly divulges, in quite an uncharacteristically candid way, that he does not really write the books that are sold under his name. The story plays with the subjectivity of character, based on the vantage from where we are seeing the character, and this was a technique first employed by Shakespeare with the duplicitous character of Iago, the iconoclastic sociopath, who sowed doubt in the minds of the Othello’s main players.
This novel is effectively written in the same creative vein of Shakespeare’s Othello, incorporating some of the same noteworthy tropes and character archetypes. It’s not to detract from the originality of Sascha’s writing, but this respectful nod to classical tropes, written with the fierce alacrity, and tense suspense of a modern thriller writer is what sets this work apart from potentially more generic works in the same genre. The story is written with a brisk, exciting pace, as the story of murder, deceit, and the enigma of the main narrator of the story are told in much more detail, but only enough detail, as to expertly keep the reader’s attention.
My only slight criticism about this book had to do with the the lack of realism with some of the plot developments further along in the story. Some of the choices made by some of the side characters are quite frankly incredulous, and lacking any real logic behind them. One character in particular makes an extremely foolish decision that seems radically out-of-character. Perhaps, this relative idiotic behavior of a few of these characters is keeping with the unreliable tone of the narrator,as we see these slightly absurd events in the story unfold from his deranged perspective.
For the most part, the novel, as a whole, is fast-paced, and is written fairly well, and it definitely provokes the reader to ponder further questions about the subjectivity of morality,whether a murderer or sociopath has an evil disposition that is so intrinsic to them, as to make them irredeemably evil. Are these types of people then so evil,as to prevent readers from completely trusting the veracity of the story they’re trying to convey to us, as the reader? Why do Iagos exist, why have we never succeeded in really trying to figure out all their ingenious machinations? Will true, deceitful evil always elude our best intentions? This is where the novel succeeds the most, even with a few snags in the way of incredulous, out-of-character circumstances at intervals in the novel. Besides being terribly exciting, it is as much an unsettling meditation on the nature of evil, much like the works of either Edgar Allen Poe or Shakespeare, who first delved into the psychical mire of the minds of the most ruthless types of human beings, long before we ever diagnosed certain forms of pathological evil as psychological conditions