The Lies I Tell

Written by Julie Clark

Review written by Jon Morgan

Jon Morgan is a retired police Superintendent and francophile who, it is said, has consequently seen almost everything awful that people can do to each other. He relishes quality writing in all genres but advises particularly on police procedure for authors including John Harvey and Jon McGregor. Haunts bookshops both new and secondhand and stands with Erasmus: “When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I may buy food and clothes.”

The Lies I Tell
Hodder & Stoughton
RRP: £21.99
Released: June 23, 2022

I don’t break any laws, and what I take is given willingly. I can’t be blamed for how easy it is to manipulate you. It is a discipline, involving confidence, cleverness and deception. ….’


A teenage girl, Meg Varnum, has to leave the last year of school and not graduate, to look after her terminally-ill mother. Nothing new there. Or is there? Mother and daughter are sleeping in the car as they have been conned out of the house they owned by a very dodgy and conscience-light developer. This is not the last we see of this individual.


Mother dies, daughter, now 18 is still sleeping in the car and barely making ends meet in a variety of service jobs. She comes across an old high school teacher, now a headmaster and because of his treatment of a high school friend, decides to exact revenge.


Fast forward ten years and the woman is an experienced con-artist, moving from US state to US state, but a ‘criminal’ with a difference and a conscience. Her ‘marks’ are very carefully selected and planned. Not simply for financial gain.


Add to this mix, an investigative journalist, Kat Roberts, rather naive, who nevertheless divines what is behind the con and public humiliation of the Head teacher. She is also tipped off about one of his friends by the con artist and goes ‘under-cover,’ without back up, suffering consequences which make her almost obsessional about tracking down the con-artist who she holds at least partly responsible for her assault, and trauma and for ending a promising journalistic career.


The years pass and the con-artist resurfaces, providing an opportunity for the journalist to expose her and to hold her to account, but the next and possibly final, con-trick, is not as it seems and the reasons for the first, last and all the ones in between become clear.


This crime thriller seemed a run of the mill book with a nod to a Robin Hood-type main character. It also started rather confusingly with two main first person narratives. Later chapters were headed either ‘Kat’ or ‘Meg’ to distinguish them.


Once the confusion is worked through and the timelines understood ,the book is a fast-paced, well plotted novel. The details of the preparation, both physical and psychological, of each con are laid out carefully and whilst the two main female protagonists are undoubtedly ‘damaged’ women, the extent of the revenge they wreak on the careless, selfish and life-wrecking, men responsible for their damage and the damage to other women’s lives, seems entirely reasonable and proportionate and even occasionally humourous.


The processes involved in the frauds, scams, cons – call them what you will, are well-outlined and a great deal of detail of financial, property, banking and on-line activity is laid out.


As with so many others, this is not a book I would ordinarily have chosen for myself, but its skilful narrative, research and structure meant that I read it right through in two sittings and within 24 hours. Julie Clark is a name to watch and add to my ever-expanding wish list.

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