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Thursday, May 24, 2012

When First we Practice to Deceive... Bad Things Happen, Man


Decisions... large or small, we make them all day, every day, from what to wear, what to eat, which bills to pay, who to talk to and who to avoid, whether to hit the weight room or the neighborhood pub after work, what show to watch, to whether it’s more beneficial to tell the unvarnished truth about something... or to tell a lie.  
It may not come as much of a surprise that life involves so many decisions, but it definitely might give us pause, thinking about how often we choose to gloss over the truth, embellish the facts, or outright fabricate something out of whole cloth.   

It’s the latter variety--all beginning with a spur-of-the-moment fib--which fills the pages of author Jeremy Bates’ new thriller, White Lies...


                               * / * / * / * 
Katrina Burton needs nothing so much as to make a fresh start. After having lost both parents in a tragic accident years earlier and more recently losing her fiance, the memories in her Seattle home have become too hard to bear. So, she secures another teaching job, sells her house and most of her belongings, and packs her bags to make the long trek with her dog from the big city to a tiny town on the other side of the state. 
Late at night, however, finds her fighting physical exhaustion and road weariness as she tries to make out the unfamiliar highway--twisting and turning as it wends its way through the Cascades--in the sheeting rain. The last thing she expects to see reflected in her headlights is what looks like a hitchhiker trudging through the downpour along the side of the road.
Katrina performs a quick mental battle; leave the man to his fate, drenched and miles from nowhere, or offer a little kindness and rescue him from the miserable conditions? The smartest action--using her cell to call for help--isn’t an option, as the battery died earlier, so, help it is, she decides. (Cue Bad Decision Number One, here.)
Once he’s inside her car, she starts rethinking her hasty decision almost immediately (which by now, of course, is much too late). It’s not that he’s big and imposing; actually, he’s on the scrawny side, and barely into adulthood. No, the problem is that he’s belligerent, lecherous, and very drunk. Seeing no other way of extricating herself from the situation, Katrina makes up a lie about where she’s headed--improvising a cabin-at-the-lake destination--which in turn gives her an excuse to drop him off, protesting and swearing a blue streak at her, at the turnoff to the first little settlement they reach. (This, unfortunately, turns out to be Bad Decision Number Two.)
Normally, that would be the end of things, and so Katrina thinks... until she starts her new job a few days later, only to discover that one of her fellow teachers is none other than the same creep who briefly shared her car--Zach, all cleaned up and not reeking of alcohol. He makes it clear--to her, if not the other staff members--that he most definitely hasn’t forgotten being ejected from her car... and that he’s capable of holding a major grudge. Part of his plan to get revenge? To invite himself and all the other teachers to her “lake cabin” for a weekend fling. 
Now, the logical thing for Katrina to do would be to recant, saying something like no smart woman on her own would want to let a stranger know where she lived, or perhaps to laugh and say that he must have just misunderstood her, right? (Yes.) Katrina, however, isn’t really down with the whole concept of logical actions, and she proceeds to agree to hosting a party at an imaginary house she doesn’t own and of which she’s never even dreamed. (You guessed it; Bad Decision Number Three.)
There is one bright spot in the new life she’s (somewhat-clumsily) making for herself: Jack, the intriguing man she met while shopping at the hardware store one day. Handsome, charming, and easy to be around, he quickly becomes a regular fixture in her life... even coming up with a workable, face-saving solution to the party problem with Zach: just find a cabin to rent for the weekend and have the party, with no one being any the wiser. 
At first, everything goes according to plan; the guests are enjoying themselves immensely, drinking too much and carrying on like the teenagers they teach throughout the week. When things unexpectedly get a little too out of hand, though--and someone winds up brutally murdered--no amount of frantic lie-spinning or desperate covering-up of the crime (Bad Decisions Number Four, Five, Six, and so on) will suffice to get Katrina out of the horrible mess she’s in.


* / * / * / *
White Lies is the story of a figurative train wreck in action; it’s almost ridiculously easy to see that nothing good can come from Katrina’s little fibs. The mystery is how she never quite seems to grasp that, and in truth, I had a hard time dredging up any sympathy for her, early on. (Granted, I tend to over-think things--including those little white lies which most of us tell--so other readers may or may not not find her so infernally annoying.)
Once I’d gritted my teeth and stopped trying to put myself in her shoes, though, the whole premise became almost undeniably compelling. The snowball effect, brought about by one seemingly-innocent, little white lie, told to the absolute wrong person, makes for a situation as tense and nerve-wracking as they come. I was on the edge of my seat throughout much of this one... and I suspect you will be, too.
 
GlamKitty Catnip Mousie Rating:  Enthusiastically-shivering Mousies

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