by JHSiess (Lodi, California): How well can one ever really know another person? Is faith always blind? How much trust can be confidently placed in the person with whom one shares a life, home, children?

Those are the overriding questions that haunt Joe Lynch as he unwittingly becomes embroiled in the mysterious disappearance of Ben Delaney, a man with whom he is merely acquainted when his four-year-old son, William, spots Mel’s car on the highway. Observant William insists that it indeed is his mother’s car, so Joe gives in to the little boy’s pleas to see her, telling William, “Let’s go and surprise Mummy.” Instead, it is Joe who is surprised to find his wife in a hotel restaurant with Ben, the husband of Beth, Mel’s best friend. Ben is animated and plainly angry, pointing his finger at Mel, “his voice a barely controlled growl.” Matters only worsen when Joe, in an effort to protect William, returns to the parking garage. Mel drives off before he can get her attention. However, he does start a conversation with Ben, who denies having seen Mel in the restaurant. The discussion quickly escalates into violence as Ben yells at Joe that he is a “classic underachiever” and so “dense that you haven’t seen it, have you?” Confused by Ben’s commentary, Joe defends himself against Ben’s assault. When Joe drives out of the garage, Ben is lying on the ground, unconscious and bleeding. By the time Joe returns to the garage, Ben has vanished.

Thus, Joe’s innocent desire to make their young son happy by paying Mel a surprise visit ensnares him in a frantic quest for answers. Joe quickly realizes that everything he has believed about his wife and their relationship has been a lie. It appears that not only is Ben obsessed with Mel, he is determined to destroy Joe in order to get what he wants. Ben is a charming, highly successful, and wealthy businessman known for his ruthless competitiveness. He simply does not lose. And because he is in the tech industry, his knowledge of computers and other devices is far superior to Joe’s and allows him to embroil Joe is a dangerous cat-and-mouse game. Ben’s wife, Beth, claims that he returned home after the altercation with Joe but quickly left the house, taking a shotgun with him. She also reveals dark secrets about their marriage that lead Joe to believe that Ben poses a threat to all of them. Joe is convinced that Ben is alive, but taunting him as he makes it appear that Joe has murdered him. Thus, Joe sets out to prove that Ben is not only alive, but the mastermind behind a series of events that jeopardize Joe’s reputation and career, including an altered photograph that is posted on Facebook. Logan’s inclusion of plot twists involving and illustrating the inherent danger of social media provide an opportunity for Joe’s observations about the “compulsion to share every event, every emotion, every success, every random thought, every half-funny conversation.” Joe opines that “it’s not the photographing and sharing and broadcasting that makes something what it is. It’s the doing. The being. The experience of it… . That’s the truth. That’s what’s real.”

Lies is the debut psychological thriller from author T.M. Logan, who admits to telling “quite a few fibs” during his years as a writer. Until he inked the publishing deal for Lies, he kept his writing aspirations from everyone except his family and close friends, noting, “Like a lot of people, I was a secret writer.”

Logan’s talent is no longer a secret. Lies is a tautly imagined and plotted thriller with a jaw-dropping ending, featuring an empathetic and sympathetic main character in Joe Lynch. Joe is truly a good man, devoted to his wife and son, committed to his profession (teaching), and honest. Through Joe’s first-person account of the nightmarish circumstances in which he finds himself, readers understand and can relate to his frustration, anger, and sheer terror at the prospect of being wrongly accused of committing a heinous crime. Assuming, that is, that Joe Lynch is a reliable narrator.

Once Mel is revealed to have deceived her husband, she is also a suspect, although her possible motive for wanting to further hurt Joe is far from apparent. Ben’s inspiration is clear. But Logan keeps readers guessing as to exactly what happened to Ben, who is responsible for his fate, and exactly why Joe finds himself at the center of the mystery until the very end of the story. The pace never slows, accelerating to a shocking conclusion that will take most readers completely by surprise and cause them to ask themselves, “What if your whole life was based on a lie?” Lies is an impressive and engrossing first novel, and bodes well for the prospect of more intriguing thrillers to come from Logan.

Thanks to NetGalley for an Advance Reader’s Copy of the book.