Book review: The Perfect Lie by Jo Spain
The Perfect Lie - Jo Spain
You don't ever have to worry about whether you'll find it difficult to get into a new Jo Spain thriller; she will have you gripped and intrigued from the start and The Perfect Lie is no exception. Right from the start we see Erin Kennedy's life fall apart, shockingly and unexpectedly in a dramatic fashion. Erin is an Irish girl now living in America working for a publishing house and married to a police officer Danny in the Newport PD. Not only did she witness his suicide, which is horrific enough, and then find out that he was under investigation by his own force, but it seems that she is now also on trial for the murder of her husband. How can it have come to this?
So you will definitely be hooked from the thrilling and shocking start, but still, a crime thriller set in the USA and within the American criminal justice system is quite a departure for Jo Spain. Or is it really entirely new ground? Certainly Spain's previous work has all been very much related to Ireland, to the specific nature of Irish issues of historical crime, political and financial corruption, institutionalised abuse, as well as specific family and social issues. That's the case in her regular DI Tom Reynolds series as well as pretty much all of her standalone books so far. Nonetheless, this is an author continually striving to extend her range, and often - only the last standalone Six Wicked Reasons didn't quite make the mark for me - very successfully.
Aside from being set in America and dealing with the US justice system, there's another interesting development or variation from the typical Jo Spain thriller. In The Perfect Lie she takes on the genre of thrilling courtroom drama. In a roundabout way. First you really want to know why Erin is there at all, and although Spain drops some clues it remains frustratingly and intentionally vague. Not least is a parallel backstory being told about a young college student being abused by her boyfriend who is afraid to take the matter to the police.
Now if you've read any crime fiction before you can begin to put 2 and 2 together here, but if you've read Jo Spain before you will know that she has her own way of working with crime fiction mathematics. The problem here is that you are left with two sides of an equation that doesn't add up for a significant proportion of the book. That should be reason enough to keep you intrigued, but there may be some irritation that significant names, events and too many loose ends and indeed even Erin's Irish backstory are being left deliberately vague just for the sake of springing a surprise twist. On the basis that it's Jo Spain and that things will undoubtedly begin to resolve themselves in a way that makes this worthwhile, there's reason enough to keep you reading, and sure enough the resolution and revelations at the conclusion of The Perfect Lie are unlikely to disappoint.
As to whether the author successfully makes the transition from Irish-themed crime fiction to American crime fiction, well, on that front it's true that this feels less like the typical Jo Spain novel. Except in one respect. Although she writes crime fiction Spain usually deals with real life or topical issues and here there is indeed an underlying subject that remains topical and has been highlighted again by recent events. With that subject to the forefront, The Perfect Lie is not just a clever and entertaining crime thriller, but has a real and meaningful purpose that gives it just that little bit more of an edge.