Simply Lies by David Baldacci

Reviewed by Ian Lipke

Simply Lies is an uncomplicated title that describes more than adequately the latest yarn by David Baldacci. The characters create a mindset in which to tell a lie and then maintain it with the simplicity of truth. One chapter begins with a character introduced as Arlene Robinson. She is most plausible in persuading another that she not only works for the same firm but speaks with the authority of  their mutual supervisor. Thus, a chain of events is initiated, a chain that is built on untruths.

The body in the secret room that is revealed as a result of Arlene Robinson’s lie is wrongly identified. The person who locates the corpse, along with the policeman who examines the corpse, is not always tight with the truth. The mysterious woman who sets Mickey tasks to pursue is forever changing her appearance and, accordingly, her blend of truth.

Mickey is an ex-policeman who has married and gained two sons from the union. Her ex-husband is gay and has felt no compunction about stealing what little money she had and making off with it.  Mickey is a strong woman and copes with the ordinary disasters of everyday life e.g. having a child vomit all over her at the most inconvenient time. She can turn from that type of incident to dealing with a major criminal without undue duress. She can debate with the toughest of policemen and insist that her point be listened to. If anything, she projects an image that is more masculine than might otherwise be.

The book contains rather unusual features. A shady figure who is never identified delivers a mystery phone to Mickey’s front porch. It becomes the centre of communication between Mickey and the mysterious Clarisse. This woman is herself rather strange. She relies extensively on changes of hair colour and of clothing to hide her identity from the criminal fraternity. This seems a little fragile.

Nathan Trask is supposed to be a master criminal, yet we hardly ever see him. His part in the development of the plot is hardly noticed. The actual murderer that everyone is chasing is identified as somebody completely unexpected, somebody with such a small part to play, he might be considered insignificant. Yet on the basis of very little evidence, Mickey identifies him as the criminal. It is a scene that is unlikely.

We are told that one constant in Clarisse’s life is attention to detail. She finds a dusty old bottle in a heap of rubbish. It is accompanied by a rusty wine opener. She examines the cork closely and happens to notice that the wine label has not been entirely affixed to the glass. She removes it and discovers a message outside the bottle. This message has great significance. The message reads: This is the twenty-first century. Act like it, you idiot. Only someone with the intellect of an idiot savant would read anything of significance in such a message.

The ending of the book is a disappointment. When all the action is over, we have still to plough our way through a large number of pages when one character or the other attempts to explain what the story was all about.

An interesting story which contains a number of unfortunate weaknesses.

Simply Lies

(2023)

by David Baldacci

Pan Macmillan

ISBN: 978 152906 202 1

$34.99; 432 pp

 

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