Monday, March 12, 2018

First blockbuster thriller of 2018

Sometimes I Lie

Alice Feeney


Flatiron Books

March 13, 2018

5 stars


"My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie."

Alice Feeney from the first page of Sometimes I Lie lets us know we are dealing with an unreliable narrator. How unreliable may be unimaginable even by the most savvy thriller reader.

As warned by the author, Amber Reynolds is indeed in a coma. That is the first fact we can accept. Through Amber's first person narration we learn she does not know how she ended up in a coma, at least not at the beginning. Amber can hear the people who visit her in her hospital room and soon learn there was an accident but she has no memory of it. To make things more complex, her perceptions on what is happening to her may be muddled by hallucinations and incomplete input while in the coma. But she is sure that her husband have fallen out of love with her and she suspects he may have had something to do with why she is where she is.

Alternating with her experiences in the coma, we get more info from other chapters that cover the days before the accident and a diary that was written twenty years earlier. All of this hold key clues on what is really happening, Asides from Amber, we learn about key players; not only her husband Paul but Amber's sister Claire, a returning ex-boyfriend Edward, and Amber's very unsympathetic colleague Madeline who works at the local radio station with her.

And none of this adequately prepares you for what is actually going on.

Sometimes I Lie is a spider web of a novel. Each passage is a fine thread that works with the others to trap you in its web. I cannot tell you how many times this novel surprised me and not one of the surprises felt forced. It's fairly impossible to tell you any more about the book without giving too much away. It's sort of a cliche nowadays to say you are better off going into a book cold but that cliche is more true here than in most suspense novels I have read. What I can tell you is that the twist and turns within this novel are impeccably timed to leave you disoriented and anxious for more.

In the present state of the psychological thriller, unreliable narrators and alternating chapters of time and perception are the rage but I have never seen this pulled off as well as in this book. Amber is empathetic in her predicament and reasonably paranoid about the people who visit her and what she hears. Yet She has her own secrets which are revealed throughout the book. She is the focus though most of the novel but the other characters become more solid and three dimensional as time goes on. Alice Feeney is as much as a juggler as a novelist and it is amazing to watch her go through her paces without dropping a pin. More amazing is how the novel transcend its tricks and gimmicks and allows you to become totally absorbed in the character and emotionally mesmerized by the outcome. It's a stunning outcome that I predict will be leaving some people confounded and thinking "what did I just read?" a good way.

To be honest, I'm not a very good predictor of commercial success in novels. But I feel I am reasonably safe to say this will be the first blockbuster thriller of 2018 and will deserve every bit of its acclaim. I feel more safe stating, in this early stage of the year, this will be a top contender on my best of the year list for best novel.

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