Review + Excerpt: Lies She Told - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

The truth can be darker than fiction.

Liza Cole, a once-successful novelist whose career has seen better days, has one month to write the thriller that could land her back on the bestseller list. Meanwhile, she’s struggling to start a family, but her husband is distracted by the disappearance of his best friend, Nick. As stresses weigh her down in her professional and personal lives, Liza escapes into writing the chilling exploits of her latest heroine, Beth.

Beth, a new mother, suspects her husband is cheating on her while she’s home caring for their newborn. Angry and betrayed, she aims to catch him in the act and make him pay for shattering the illusion of their perfect life. But before she realizes what she’s doing, she’s tossing the body of her husband’s mistress into the East River.

Then, the lines between Liza’s fiction and her reality eerily blur. Nick’s body is dragged from the East River, and Liza’s husband is arrested for his murder. Before her deadline is up, Liza will have to face up to the truths about the people around her, including her own. If she doesn’t, the end of her heroine’s story could be the end of her own.

Book Type:

Psychological Thriller

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Lies She Told
By Cate Holahan

Review + Excerpt: Lies She Told

“To be a writer is to be a life thief.
Every day, I rob myself blind.”


Cate Holahan delivers double the twists, double the thrills in this compelling story about lies, deceit and fracturing sanity.

Romantic suspense author Liza Cole has exactly one month to write a hit thriller. Since her first bestseller, her novels have performed progressively worse and she feels her career hanging by a thread. Liza promises she’ll have something great to turn in to her editor in 30 days.

Her story features Beth, a woman with a 6-week-old baby girl, who suspects her husband is having an affair. Feeling angry, scorned and tired from caring for their newborn, she intends to catch him in the act and confront him.

Meanwhile, in real life, Liza struggles with not only the pressure of her book, but also with their inability to have a baby. To make matters worse, her husband David is distraught and distracted from the mysterious disappearance of his law partner, Nick.

As Beth’s life spins out of control, leading to murder and a body dumped in the river, Liza’s life begins to echo what she’s written on the page. She begins to doubt David’s fidelity, and when Nick’s body is dragged from the river, she can’t seem to make sense of what’s real and what’s not. Soon, Liza’s husband is arrested and she must face hard truths she’s hidden in the dark recesses of her mind. Someone killed Nick and the truth is just beyond her grasp.

I found myself utterly riveted to both story lines, which twined together masterfully. Ratcheting tension and a continuously shifting, twisting narrative made this a book easy to devour and impossible to put down. It’s the best kind of thriller: addictive, layered and full of surprises.

“Blurring fact and fantasy is my trade. I am a con artist. A prevaricator. I make up stories. So why does he think this one is real?”

I don’t know this man. Fault lines carve his cheeks from his gaping mouth. His brow bulges above narrowed eyes. This man is capable of violence.

“Did you think I wouldn’t find out?” Spittle hits my face as he screams. Fingers tighten around my biceps. My bare heels leave the hardwood. He’s lifting me to his level so that there’s no escape, no choice but to witness his pain. “Did you think I wouldn’t read it?”

I feel my lips part, my jaw drop, but the sheer volume of his voice silences me. His grip loosens enough for my feet to again feel the floor.

“Answer me.” He whispers this time, the hiss of a kettle before the boil.

“I didn’t do anything.” Tears drown my words.

“Why, Liza? Tell me why he had to die.” His speech is measured.

I wish he would swear, call me names. If he were out of control, I could calm him down, negotiate, maybe even convince him that everything has been a misunderstanding. But he’s resolved. His questions are rhetorical. There’s a gun on the dining table.

“Please.” Sobs fold me in half. I press my hand to the wall, seeking leverage to stand. “I don’t know.”

He yanks my arm, forcing me from the corner. My knee slams against the jutting edge of the bed as he pulls me toward the oak writing desk and open laptop. The offending document lies on the screen. I’m pushed down into the desk chair and rolled forward.

“You expect me to believe this is a coincidence?” His index finger jabs the monitor.

“It’s a story,” I plead. “It’s only a story.”

Though I catch the hand in my peripheral vision, I can’t calculate the trajectory fast enough. It lands on the laptop, flinging it across the desk and onto the floor. Parts rattle. The bottom panel breaks off and skitters across the hardwood.

“Liar.” He turns my chair, wresting my attention from the ruined computer. A fist rises toward my face. He’s been building up to this. I shut my eyes. “You’re a fucking liar.”

I don’t protest. He’s right. Blurring fact and fantasy is my trade. I am a con artist. A prevaricator. I make up stories.

So why does he think this one is real?



He’s tracking my time. Every ten seconds, Trevor’s dark eyes dart to the digital clock on his computer screen, a driver checking his rearview. My pitch has not impressed. He has more important things to attend to, authors who bring in more money. My work is not worth these valuable minutes.

He doesn’t say any of this, of course. Our decade-long relationship has made his thoughts apparent. I read them in the lines crinkling his brow as he sits across from me in his office chair, scratching his goatee while the air conditioner’s hiss recalls the reputational damage wrought by my latest book, Accused Woman. Not my best work, to say the least. Critics dubbed the protagonist “Sandra Dee on diazepam.” She lacked agency, they said. Too many things happened to her. Really, she was too like me to be likeable. My former psychiatrist, Dr. Sally Sertradine, suggested similar failings.

“An affair?” Finally, he speaks . . . barely. A true Brit, Trevor drops the ending r. His accent mocks me, as though my idea has so offended him that even his critique doesn’t require clear articulation.

He removes the wire- framed glasses previously perched on the wide bridge of his nose, sets them on his mouse pad, and walks to his window. Before him lies a landscape of penthouse terraces. In Manhattan, success is determined by view. Trevor’s placement, high above even the city’s wealthy, is a reminder of his importance relative to my own, of the weight his opinion should carry as opposed to mine.

“There’s hardly a new way to do an affair.”

“Well, I think of it as a classic revenge story.” My voice cracks as I make my case. Dr. Sally also said I regress into adolescence at the first whiff of confrontation. The hormones are making things worse. “I think romantic suspense readers want—”

“Right. What they want.” He faces me and nods. Trevor talks with his head the way Italians speak with hand gestures. The angle of his chin conveys his amusement or displeasure. “You must give your audience what they’re craving. Readers are done with love triangles and tortured consciences. Consider what Hollywood is buying: stories about pushing sexual taboos and psychological manipulation. People want to play mind games in the bedroom, eh?”

A forty- two-year old guy is telling me, a thirty- five- year- old woman smack in the middle of my target audience demographic, what my peers want in the sack. Sad fact is, I should probably take notes. For the past year, David and I have only bothered with intercourse when my basal temp kicks up. Trevor is recently divorced and inarguably attractive: a Bronze Age Rodin of a man.

Women must be, as he’d say, “queuing” up.

He snaps to an unknown rhythm. Suddenly, his eyes brighten like he’s figured out the step. “How about something with psychiatrists?

Does he love her or is he messing with her mind?”

I could name four books involving twisted therapists that graced the bestseller lists in the past two years. But doing so would just support Trevor’s suggestion. He isn’t claiming that his idea is original, only that it’s “on trend.” Trends sell, whether writers like them or not.

Trevor mistakes my silence as serious consideration. “Think Hannibal Lecter without the horror. The sociopathic doctor meets a young Clarice, and she falls—”

“I don’t know, Trev. Transference? Is that—”

“Trans?” He wrinkles his nose, offended by my attempt to slip esoteric knowledge into our conversation. Trevor often laments this about me. He complains that I bog down my books with details: how a gun shoots, how police detect trace amounts of blood, DNA lingo fit for a biologist. For Accused Woman, I attended a week- long writer’s workshop at the police academy in Queens so I could get down every detail of the way a gun discharges and how detectives investigate. I even bought my own handgun: a Ruger SR22, touted by experts as the most affordable semiautomatic for women. My aim is horrible.

“Transference happens when a person projects unresolved feelings about their past onto people in their present, like a patient transferring romantic emotions onto their psychi—”

Trevor’s full lips press flat against his teeth.

“It’s not important. Forget it.” My voice sounds small. Somehow, I’ve neared forty without gaining the surety that’s supposed to come with middle age. I cough and try to add heft to my tone. The act clenches my stomach, intensifying the persistent queasiness that I’ve suffered for weeks. “What if, by the time the book comes out, interest in psychiatrists has waned?”

Trevor gives a What-you-gonna-do? shrug. “Well, think about it. And send me an outline before you go too deep into anything.”

The request spurs me from my seat quicker than a cattle prod.

Not once in my career has Trevor demanded anything more than a rough idea and a finished draft. Now he needs a chapter-by-chapter breakdown? The suddenness of my movement topples the chair onto Trevor’s floor. I recoil at the spectacle of its four legs sticking in the air like a poisoned cockroach. I promised myself I’d stay calm.

I right the seat and stand behind it, head lowered. My temples throb their early warning alarm for a migraine. “That’s really not how I work. I let the characters dictate the action.” My tone is apologetic. Sorry, Trev. I’m not good enough to write an outline.  That’s what he thinks I’m saying.

“Maybe it’s worth a try. New methods can lead to new results.”

“If I could just write through a draft—”

“Liza, come on. You’re a fast writer. An outline’s no big deal for you.”

“A draft barely takes longer. I’ll spend twelve hours a day writing. Fourteen—”

“You’ve got the MWO conference coming up.”

“I’m only staying through my panel.” Nerves add unnecessary vibrato to my voice. “Hey, if you like the story, then we’re both happy. If not, I’ll start over.” I force a laugh. “I’ll even throw in a psychiatrist.”

He runs his hand through his grown-out buzz cut. The longer hairstyle is new, post-divorce. It makes him look younger.

“Please, Trev.” I’m actually begging. “I think this idea could have legs. Let me run with it. Give me one month. Thirty days.”

Trevor reclaims his glasses and places them on his face. The spectacles magnify the teardrop shape of his eyes as he checks in with his computer clock. “All right.” His head shakes in disagreement with his words. “You have until September fifteenth. One month. I can’t give you any more than that.”

LIES SHE TOLD by Cate Holahan
Copyright © 2017 by Cate Holahan
Crooked Lane Books, publication date: September 12, 2017

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