Monday, March 27, 2017


SPARE ME THE TRUTH by CJ Carver (Zaffre, 2016)

Reviewed by Alyson Baker

Dan Forrester, piecing his life back together after the tragic death of his son, is approached in a supermarket by a woman who tells him everything he remembers about his life - and his son - is a lie.

Grace Reavey, stricken by grief, is accosted at her mother's funeral. The threat is simple: pay the staggering sum her mother allegedly owed, or lose everything. Lucy Davies has been forced from the Met by her own maverick behaviour. Desperate to prove herself in her new rural post, she's on the hunt for a killer - but this is no small town criminal.

Plunged into a conspiracy that will test each of them to their limits, these three strangers are brought together in their hunt for the truth, whatever it costs. And as their respective investigations become further and further entwined, it becomes clear that at the centre of this tangled web is a threat more explosive than any of them could have imagined.

CJ Carver describes herself as “half-English, half-Kiwi” and SPARE ME THE TRUTH is the first of her novels I have read, despite it being the eighth she has written. And I will be reading more!

SPARE ME THE TRUTH is a complex thriller with brilliant plotting that keeps the reader guessing how all the various threads of the story are ever going to weave together.  There are three main storylines, one involving Grace Reavey, a GP who starts finding out about the secret life of her mother, after being threatened at her mother’s funeral. The second features Dan Forrester, a man suffering from amnesia, the nature of which is called into question after he is contacted by Grace’s mother prior to her death. And the third is the story of Lucy Davies, a young cop who has been sent to the boonies from the Met after she has exhibited some forthright behaviour at work.

There are fragments of cases uncovered in each of the storylines – and there is a teaser Prologue as well, where we meet Stella, Grace’s mother, and that has to be fitted into the puzzle. The fragments involve grisly deaths, third world dumping, Big Pharma and sonic weapons – and yes they do all tie together in the end. And as well as the technicalities of the story we are drawn into the personal lives of the three main characters.

Dan’s amnesia has resulted from extreme trauma – and his belief in his apparently stable and supportive family becomes very shaky as his accepted history is called into question.  Grace is thrown by her discoveries about her mother, and also by the uncertainty resulting from her partner wanting to move to remote Scotland.

And my favourite character, Lucy (“… didn’t want to get caught without a corkscrew or a sugar hit when the going got tough”) is constantly fighting her tendency to ‘liveliness’, knowing that this ‘problem’ is why she has been banished from the Met – to which she is desperate to return. But things get more complicated for Lucy when she realises her confusing condition might actually be part of the case she is working on – but that if she admits to her problem it might stymie her career plans for good. And to make matters more complicated still, the object of a haunting one night stand turns up to head her investigation.

All so engrossing – the only slightly jarring note for me was the phone calls from Chennai, they were a great part of the puzzle solving but do young Indian men really constantly talk in the present progressive: “I cannot be telling you this, … I must to be taking him a message, … How can I be helping you?”  SPARE ME THE TRUTH is a great read – and from CJ Carver’s website it would appear there are more Dan Forrester novels to come.  Excellent!

Alyson Baker is a crime-loving librarian in Nelson. This review first appeared on her blog, which you can check out here

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