Tuesday, April 6, 2021


THE PERFECT LIE by Jo Spain (Quercus Books, 2021)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

He jumped to his death in front of witnesses. Now his wife is charged with murder.

Five years ago, Erin Kennedy moved to New York following a family tragedy. She now lives happily with her detective husband in the scenic seaside town of Newport, Long Island. When Erin answers the door to Danny's police colleagues one morning, it's the start of an ordinary day. But behind her, Danny walks to the window of their fourth-floor apartment and jumps to his death.

Eighteen months later, Erin is in court, charged with her husband's murder. Over that year and a half, Erin has learned things about Danny she could never have imagined. She thought he was perfect. She thought their life was perfect.

But it was all built on the perfect lie.

How would you deal with things if the solid footing and nice life you'd scrabbled to find after past tragedy was suddenly torn away from you in an instant, and then to make things even worse you were forced to question everything you thought you knew? Irishwoman abroad Erin Kennedy faces just that dilemma in this compulsive new thriller from bestselling Irish novelist and screenwriter Jo Spain. 

Erin wakes up one Tuesday to sea air and sex with Danny, her police detective husband, in their Long Island apartment. The couple are juggling work stresses, but looking forward to a weekend away together soon. Erin has a day of publishing work ahead, but that all changes when Danny's work partner knocks on the door early that morning, flanked by uniformed officers. Something's wrong. 

Very wrong. Then it gets worse. 

Danny sizes up the situation, and makes an irreversible decision. A window and a drop to the concrete below; a sudden death rather than facing whatever was coming following the door knock. Erin's seemingly perfect life is smashed to pieces. Why would Danny commit suicide? What drove him to it? 

Eighteen months later, Erin is on trial for killing her husband.

Spain keeps readers nicely off-balance throughout an exciting read that flows well while twisting like a corkscrew rollercoaster. She adeptly sets the hook then reels us in through multiple timelines leading up to and through Erin's trial, including events at a college campus years before. 

Struggling after Danny's fatal leap from their balcony, Erin begins looking into what could possibly have led to him making such a seemingly incomprehensible decision, but that just brings more pain and confusion as she finds out lots of horrible things that had been hidden from view. 

Like Erin, our heads spin as we try to make sense of just what the hell is going on. Unsurprisingly cinematic, Spain’s latest is a one-sitting kind of read that is full of twists and red herrings, of fragmented incidents that later mesh in ways not always expected. 

THE PERFECT LIE is perfect weekend reading, whether you're beachside or not.

Craig Sisterson is a lapsed Kiwi lawyer who now lives in London and writes for magazines and newspapers in several countries. He’s interviewed hundreds of crime writers and talked about the genre on national radio, top podcasts, and onstage at festivals on three continents. Craig's been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards, McIlvanney Prize, is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards and co-founder of Rotorua Noir. His book SOUTHERN CROSS CRIME, was published in 2020.

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