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THE LIE MAKER by Linwood Barclay: Book Review

We all know that people are complicated, that there may be many, many aspects to an individual.  In The Lie Maker, Linwood Barclay’s latest novel, we learn that the relationship between a criminal father and his son leads to an outcome no one could have predicted.

When the book opens, a man is taken away from his wife and young son and put into the Witness Protection Program.  His wife refuses to go with him, and the child remains with her.  As the father is about to enter the government car that will take him to his new life, his son runs after him, pleading for his father to say he’s sorry so that he can remain home with his family.  “Sorry isn’t good enough sometimes….I killed people.  Sorry just doesn’t cut it.”

The son grows up to be an author, although not a financially successful one.  He’s written two novels under a pen name, and even his “real name” isn’t the name he was born with.  After his father left, his mother remarried; he took his stepfather’s name, so his name is now Jack Givens.

Jack is definitely down on his luck, and he’s even more disheartened when his agent tells him that his editor isn’t interested in the book he just completed.  However, the agent says he’s been contacted by someone who may have a job for Jack, one that could turn out to be more remunerative than his book would have been.  It all seems a bit strange to Jack, having to contact an unknown person on a burner phone, but he’s desperate enough to listen to almost any opportunity.

When he arrives at the Boston office of Pandora Importing, he discovers that it’s a cover for the U. S. Marshals Service, the government agency that put his father in the Witness Protection Program.  The marshal, Gwen Kaminsky, appears ignorant of that fact, and Jack doesn’t inform her of it.

She tells him that members of the Service who have read his two published novels are impressed “by the characters, how developed they were…I’m told the characters were very authentic, very three dimensional.”  The Service, Gwen informs him, is looking for people who can create realistic backstories for those who enter the Program, and Jack’s name was given to her.  The money is more than Jack had received for his previous novels, so he agrees to start creating a story for a man in the Program.

What Jack doesn’t tell Gwen is that a major reason he’s agreeing to take the job is the possibility that it will help him locate his father.  Although it was forbidden, Jack’s father had made contact with him several times over the years, although it had been some time since their last meeting.

Gwen impresses upon Jack that everything he does is totally confidential, not to be shared with anyone.  Jack agrees, but the woman he’s dating, an investigative reporter, naturally wants to find out about his new job, and the more he says he can’t tell her anything about it, the more she is determined to get the information on her own.

“I should warn you,” she says.  “You’ve presented a challenge to me.”

As were all of Linwood Barclay’s previous novels, this one is outstanding.  The characters are believable, the plot is clever, and the twists and turns will keep you guessing throughout the book.  You can read more about the author at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.


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