The unreliable narrator trend in crime fiction continues with many authors attempting to find new ways in which to explore this phenomenon. Alice Feeney decides to tackle the trope directly by having her character tell readers right from the start: “Sometimes I lie.” That this also happens to be the title of the novel is certainly no accident.
The narrator of Sometimes I Lie is Amber Reynolds. As the novel opens, Amber is suffering through a coma that prevents her from moving, opening her eyes, or talking, but which allows her to hear the activity within her hospital room. Alice Feeney does an admirable job of allowing readers to experience what a traumatic and disconcerting situation that would be. Readers feel the same claustrophobia that Amber is subjected as she attempts to recover from her horrific car accident. The fact that the authorities believe the accident may have been intentional only increased the creep factor.
Alternating with the scenes in the hospital are chapters documenting Amber’s life in the weeks leading up to the accident. In these sections, readers learn that Amber has a strained relationship with her sister, her husband may be keeping secrets, and Amber’s entire life could very well be build upon lies. There is as much mystery and suspense in these chapters as there is in the investigation of Amber’s accident itself.
Interspersed throughout the novel are childhood diary entries that also serve to elucidate events from earlier in Amber’s life. These sections written in an authentic 10-year-old’s voice allow readers another window into Amber’s world. This perspective is not something that is often explored within crime fiction and it lends the novel a fresh and original feel.
At its very core, Sometimes I Lie is about family relationships. Throughout the narrative, readers are exposed to the unique dynamics inherent in such interactions. Many subtleties between parents and children, husbands and wives, and sibling rivalries are explored with psychological insight and acumen. Amber’s obsessive-compulsive traits and tendencies are also documented in realistic ways, such that the reader can experience what suffering from such an affliction might be like.
The overpowering emotions of envy, jealousy, and obsession dominate every section of the novel. How these feelings interact is the root cause of the intentional confusion readers will confront while reading Sometimes I Lie. Alice Feeney is a master manipulator – and readers looking for that from their authorial guides will cheer. This debut is incredibly strong and certainly portends of a creative spirit that will be entertaining readers for years to come.
Disclaimer: A print 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.