Tell Me Lies by J.P. Pomare – 2020

Margot Scott is a psychologist dealing daily with troubled people, she is meticulous in her professional life, has records going back to the beginning of her practice. She is respected and on the lecture circuit. She is comfortable in her marriage to Gabe, and they have two healthy children, July and Evan. Then an old university colleague refers a new patient to her, Cormac, and her near-perfect life starts to go seriously off course.

Cormac has been referred for writing essays for his fellow students, for a fee. His actions don’t make sense, he wasn’t making that much money and he has jeopardised the continuation of what was proving to be a stellar stint at university. Margot is also treating Joe, who might have PTSD from his job mediating a social media site for objectionable material, and Xanthe, totally lacking in self-esteem, with wild mood swings, a liar, in thrall to an abusive partner, her clothes concealing where she cuts herself.

All cases worry Margot and she starts to feel uneasy at work, but on the home front all she is concerned about is July’s new boyfriend – she is spending a lot of time with him when she should be studying – and her previous boyfriend broke her heart not long ago. Evan seems to have settled down since they had to ban him from gaming for a while, after he had been caught cyber-bullying. Gabe is a rock as usual, dependable even if a bit boring, an accountant who would rather diet than go running with her each morning to keep trim.

But then the unease of her professional life explodes into her private life. And while trying to keep things together, she discovers Evan is dealing with an awful online situation involving a character called Raze, “Please Mum, don’t make him angry”. Is she just paranoid when she, and some of her patients, feel they are being stalked? She starts trying to figure out whether any of her patients are a risk to her and her family, trying to balance professional ethics with getting the police to take a close look at those she suspects.

Psychologists always have trouble understanding themselves”, Margot knows she is not rock solid, she has not been completely honest with Gabe about an incident at the start of her career, but it was just “a rookie’s mistake”. She wasn’t completely honest with her father, misleading him about her university grades, but that was just her trying to live up to his expectations. She might not be perfect, but all this terror can’t be aimed at her … can it? “My career is a house of cards waiting for a gentle breeze to tip is over.”

Tell me lies is a superb psychological thriller, the reader guesses, second-guesses, third-guesses, but is still totally unprepared – there was one reveal that literally made me gasp! What links Margot, her family, her patients? And what does a man being pushed in front of a train have to do with any of it? Whose trial is unfolding in the background? The plotting is excellent, the characters worrying, and the book downright thrilling. The reader is given clues, but they are as deceptive as the characters. “Wrong person”, “Wrong person.” There is a loudly terrifying denouement, and a quiet equally terrifying ending. Sheesh what a book! As Margot’s Mont Blanc pen says: “Introspection is always retrospection”. Tell me lies is a stunning and disturbing quick read, so grab a copy!  

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