Verity by Colleen Hoover

Reviewed by Ian Lipke

Those of you old enough to remember Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca will welcome Colleen Hoover’s latest book, the impeccable and intoxicating Verity. While Rebecca was scary, Verity goes beyond what human nerves were meant to bear.

The premise is simple enough. A cash-strapped author is offered the opportunity to complete the remaining books in a series that a highly successful author has been unable to finish. Verity Crawford is suffering from a debilitating illness; her husband Jeremy hires Lowen Ashleigh to ghost-write the remaining books and makes his family home available for her use. Lowen does not expect to find a chilling manuscript, an autobiography, that nobody was expected to read. It contains page after page of admissions to murder.

Unfortunately, Hoover panders a bit to the popular market with outrageous sex scenes and a heroine who falls in love with her benefactor.  These scenes are not so overstated as to detract in any particular from the ongoing originality of the tale. However, the opening that requires a man to be decapitated in a horrible London traffic accident has little reason to exist.

The author allows the main characters to season. Lowen is a case in point. We learn of her inadequacies as a writer, that she has little published, that she is behind in her rent, and must rely on a particular interview to keep the wolf from the door. Having achieved success at the interview, she spends much time playing with her past failures before knuckling down to the new job awaiting her. (As an aside, one wonders why she was ever offered the job). Verity is a bed-ridden soul when we first meet her but grows in creepiness as the tale progresses. At the climax she is a shocker, one of the fictional greats that find themselves linked in our minds with Hannibal Lecter.

Hoover does not do male characters well. Jeremy Crawford has a tough job-sheet handed to him, a series of tasks which he achieves without distinction. But he is a solid, reliable man who loves his family, is devastated by them, and is betrayed by them.

The author uses the ploy of a hidden manuscript to drive the events. It is a trick well known to fiction writers but has never been used as brilliantly as Hoover uses it in this book. It unifies the work and follows the original writer’s avowed mode of writing from the point of view of the villain.

This book is fresh air to jaded audiences.

Verity

(2022)

by Colleen Hoover

Hachette

ISBN: 978-1-4087-2660-0

$22.99; 336 pp

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