Crime fiction of late has been filled with stories featuring unlikeable and unreliable narrators – most of them women. Readers seem to either love or hate this narrative technique; there is very little middle ground on the subject. The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango turns the gender tables and gives us a male protagonist who is equally unpleasant, very unreliable, and yet, somehow he still maintains the captivating allure necessary for readers to invest in his tale.
Henry Hayden’s life is built on lies. One lie piled on top of another until even he has difficulty discerning the truth. Henry does know, however, that he is a bestselling, celebrity author who has never truly written a word. His literary output is all the work of his wife, Martha. Even the employees at the publishing house don’t know this truth – and therein begins the source of Henry troubles.
For some time now, Henry has been having an affair with Betty Hansen, his editor. His wife doesn’t know (or does she) and neither does the President of the publishing house, who also happens to be in love with Betty. To make matters worse, Betty has just told Henry that she is pregnant and that she plans to keep the baby. With that news, Henry can feel his house of cards about to crumble.
An unexpected turn of events removes Martha from Henry’s life – along with his meal ticket. How can he keep up his charade of being a celebrated writer, if there is no one to write the damn books? Unbeknownst to Henry, a childhood “friend” is also on the hunt to uncover Henry’s secrets. Gisbert Fasch longs for success as a writer and can’t fathom how his one-time schoolmate could suddenly become so proficient in the written word.
Sascha Arango weaves these convoluted storylines into a surreal mystery in which the truth becomes a commodity used to bargain back life. Whose truth, however, is always up for speculation and readers have no choice but to follow the journey to what promises to be an unexpected end. When the journey includes a vicious marten hidden in the wall, realistic sex dolls, and a secretary who longs for career advancement, all bets are off.
Though it all, the focus remains on our protagonist: Henry Hayden is the illegitimate sibling of Highsmith’s Tom Ripley as seen through the lens of Salvador Dalí. As odious as he may be, there is something very charming and serpentine about him, which will keep readers on tenterhooks throughout the novel.
The Truth and Other Lies is a work in translation, so there are times when the text seems overly simplistic. It is hard to know if this is a result of the translation or a signpost of the author’s style. In either case, this minor distraction early on will quickly begin to feel natural as readers consume this short novel.
Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.