Verdict: Well-crafted characters combine with a complex, riveting plot to create a mystery-thriller with a distinctly human voice.
When Detective Alex Shannon is asked to find a missing teenager, he must unravel the trail of lies that will lead him to her kidnapper. While he searches for the perpetrator, his wife Jillian is having an affair with her boss. These separate trails of deception turn deadly as a serial killer hunts young girls and a mysterious online predator leaves a trail of cheating husbands in her wake.
DEADLY LIES is a fast-paced mystery centered on the characters of Alex and Jillian, with chapters alternating between their stories. While a competent detective, Alex depends on forensics and a bit of serendipity as he closes in on his suspect. He is fallible, a rare commodity in most mystery novels, and this makes him all the more human. Jillian is an executive in a software firm whose ambitions and appetites lead her to take control of her life after her career is threatened. Although the two main characters are a stark contrast to one another, the dialogue between them is realistic, revealing the complex state of their marriage quite well. Both the police procedure and the software engineering are accurately portrayed. Patchell demonstrates great skill by using the step-by-step logic in both disciplines to advance the story and heighten the suspense. The plot twists are particularly well-done, resulting from the logical flow of the action rather than from an abrupt surprise. Alex’s investigation suffers from the usual turf wars and dead ends, but it is his doggedness that keeps it alive. Jillian seems to move from strength to strength until her hubris causes the house of cards she has built to collapse. The two plotlines of their deceit entwine until they have both reached their breaking point.
DEADLY LIES is, on the surface, a well-written mystery. However, as one reads further it becomes a sobering look at deception and its consequences. Each character conceals an emotion or an act that, in the words of Walter Scott, become a tangled web of lies and obfuscation. Well-crafted characters combine with a complex, riveting plot to create a mystery-thriller with a distinctly human voice.