July 3, 2023

Book Review: Never Lie by Frieda McFadden

I love and hate this book. Mostly, I wanted to love this book, but parts of it I just really don’t like, so I can’t in good conscience give it a five-star review. In order to demonstrate why I hated parts of this book, I will have to spoil some of the ending, so I’ll start with the non-spoilery parts, and let you know when there’s no turning back.

Tricia and her new husband Ethan are looking for a house to buy so they can settle down and start a family. They drive up to a secluded mansion situated far off the beaten path just as a blizzard begins pounding down snow. Trapped through the worst of the storm, Ethan is immediately smitten with the expansive old house and immediately imagines settling down here while Tricia is more wary of the likely haunted abode.

It turns out that the previous owner, Dr. Hale, was a celebrated psychologist who mysteriously went missing three years ago. Dr. Hale kept cassette recordings of all of her therapy sessions, and Tricia finds Hale’s stash of cassettes hidden in a secret room. While Tricia narrates the present happenings in the story, the book also contains flashbacks from Adrienne Hale’s perspective along with transcripts of the recorded patient sessions.

I thought I had immediately identified the ‘twist’ that is present in most thriller stories which immediately diminished my enjoyment of the story. So here’s my first annoyance with the book: Tricia’s husband and another character (are they the same character?) have inconsistent eye colors which both are described as brilliant blue or gray. I understand trying to be coy about physical features in order to surprise the reader later on, but describing a character’s eye color as cool gray in one scene and then piercing blue in the next is inconsistent and diving straight into plot hole territory.

OK, I can’t keep it in, there are spoilers ahead.

It was very clear that Tricia’s husband Ethan and Dr. Hale’s patient EJ were supposed to be the same person, so when it became clear that they weren’t and that Tricia was actually one of Dr. Hale’s (unhinged) former patients, I was totally surprised and relieved. I actually stopped reading and told my husband, “Oh my gosh! This book actually does have a twist that I wasn’t expecting!”

He patted my arm and something along the lines of, “That’s great, honey.”

However, my elation at the surprise twist was short-lived. I enjoy a good unreliable narrator, however, there was a distinct disconnect between Tricia through the first majority of the book and (Pa)tricia at the end.

At the beginning of the book, Tricia is apprehensive about the house she’s visiting and Ethan is the one who desperately wants to view the house. However, it’s later revealed that Tricia set everything up to make the viewing happen, so Ethan’s desire to purchase this house makes no sense. Tricia explains at the end how she devised this whole plan to be trapped in the house over the weekend so she had plenty of time to search inside for something hidden, however, through most of the book, she has no desire to poke through the house and spends all of her time in one spot.

If Tricia had some mental block or something that prevented her from remembering why she was so interested in Dr. Hale’s house, then the first three-quarters of the book might make sense. Writing this book from Tricia’s point of view was a grave mistake. Tricia clearly knew what she was doing from the very beginning, so her naive perspective for the first part of the book is inconsistent, jarring, and just a huge freaking plot hole.

I think my biggest mistake was purchasing the first thriller book I found through the Kindle store ON my Kindle. Considering Amazon’s sophisticated algorithms, it sucks at recommend books on my book-reading device.

I wouldn’t consider this reading endeavor an entire loss. If you enjoy thrillers with twisty endings and just want to read something fun, Never Lie is an amusing little jaunt.

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