Friday, June 2, 2023

"Trusting the reader": A VIRTUOUS LIE review

A VIRTUOUS LIE by Christina O'Reilly (2022)

Reviewed by TJ Ramsay

Hidden in the dense bush of the Manawatu, a tiny skeleton lies overgrown with weeds. DSS Archie Baldrick and DC Ben Travers discover that the victim is a young child who went missing from a rural skate park  twenty years earlier. Who could possibly have abducted Lukas Branson and kept him hidden for over two years?

This is the third of the DSS Archie Baldrick and DC Ben Travers books – Into the Void, Retribution and now A Virtuous Lie. I happily took the task of reviewing this, knowing how much I’d enjoyed O’Reilly’s first two books. This is her best yet. A fully rounded detective fiction with great characters throughout, believable plotlines and great development of Baldrick and Travers.

A Virtuous Lie is a less linear storyline than Retribution and is all the better for it. Interweaving histories and personalities with a great twist – in fact more than one great twist. Also a step up from Retribution, are the personal story lines of both detectives. Nicely complex and well written lives interwoven within the overarching framework of their intense careers. The complications of their personal lives give added drama to the whole book while offering Baldrick and Travers greater depth for personal development.

As with the first two books in this series, O’Reilly is a dab hand with dialogue and she brings the scenes alive with great visual clarity. I read the wind as a metaphor and almost a character in itself, sweeping through the town and people, clearing heads and providing relief and clarity, or blowing chilly and cold, adding to shivery moments.

It’s difficult to review the storyline without spoilers so I avoid going into details about the plot. Rest assured it takes personal histories and reviews them in the context of this terrible discovery as new connections are made, past mistakes highlighted with a sincere understanding of how people react, how people are betrayed, how lives are rewritten and not always for the best. Also, O’Reilly continues to trust the reader to remember evidence and never does us the disservice of rehashing unless it sits well within the day-to-day policing process and she never lets it become boring or repetitive.

This review was first published in FlaxFlower reviews, which focuses on in-depth reviews of New Zealand books of all kinds, and is reprinted here with the kind permission of Flaxflower founder and editor Bronwyn Elsmore. 

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