Thriller Thursday: This Is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Harlequin Audio (May 12, 2020)
Length: 9 hrs and 59 mins
Narrator: Brittany Pressley
I really enjoyed this one, and no wonder, for This Is How I Lied has all the ingredients that make a killer thriller—no pun intended. Here, we have an unsolved murder in a small town, a twenty-five-year-old cold case which has recently been reopened because new evidence has come to light. Our protagonist is also the lead investigator, who was childhood best friends with the victim, so we have that added element of a deeply personal angle.
The novel opens brutally, on the final moments of Eve Knox’s life. It is winter of 1995 in the sleepy town of Grotto, Iowa, and the sixteen-year-old has somehow found herself alone in the icy caverns near her home, crawling away from an unknown assailant, who kills her in cold blood. Skip forward to the present, and Maggie still grieves for the loss of Eve like it was yesterday, not to mention she was also the one who had found the beaten and bloody body of her friend. However, no one was ever arrested for the murder, despite the efforts of Maggie’s father, the former chief of police in charge of the case. All the suspects, from Nick the boyfriend to Nola, the victim’s own younger sister, were eventually cleared due to lack of evidence.
But now, everything in Maggie’s life is about to change, thanks to a recent discovery by a kid who found an old boot wedged into a crevice of a cave they were exploring, and there is no doubt that it had belonged to Eve. This prompts the police department to reopen the investigation into her murder, hoping that advancements in forensic science and technology can help reveal any new clues they had missed. Maggie, now a police officer herself, immediately fights to lead the case, despite being aware how it might be a bad idea. In addition to the fact that she was Eve’s best friend and her impartiality can be called into question, Maggie is also currently seven months into a risky pregnancy, and neither she nor her husband wants to jeopardize the baby’s wellbeing with the added stress and trauma of working on such a personal case. Still, solving the mystery of Eve’s murder is very important to Maggie, who knows this is a matter she must see through to the end—for herself, as well as for her father, who never forgave himself for not finding the killer, and was later forced to retire from the force when he was diagnosed with dementia.
What made This Is How I Lied so special is that it felt like a story with multiple climaxes. About halfway through, the author drops a bombshell on the reader, the kind that makes you want to jump up and scream “HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT! THIS IS LIKE THE BEST TWIST EVER!” because it pretty much changes everything you think know about the book. Just be prepared while you read to re-evaluate the situation again and again, because the plot will keep throwing curveballs and other unexpected revelations at you every step of the way.
What also made this book interesting were the characters. Utilizing dual timelines, with chapters alternating between past and present, This Is How I Lied is told via three main POVs. Of course, on the one hand we have Maggie, who provides us with a front row seat to the investigation. When she was a teenager, her father had shielded her from a lot of his police work and the details about Eve’s death. Now that Maggie has access to all of it in the archives, seeing all the witness testimonies and crime scene photos has brought on a fresh wave of pain and horror. At the same time, her father’s condition is worsening, adding to her sorrows and the stress of her pregnancy.
Next, we also have separate thread that belongs to Eve, chronicling the final days leading up to her murder. Her POV might be the toughest to read of all, and it goes beyond simply knowing that the poor girl is doomed. Despite having a good head on her shoulders—she’s sharp enough to recognize that her best friend Maggie is caught up in a bad relationship, at least—Eve is unable to free herself from her own involvement with a toxic and abusive boyfriend. Watching her fall back into this vicious cycle again and again was almost too much to bear.
But perhaps the most memorable POV is also the most disturbing and creepy one. It belongs to Nola, Eve’s weird and possibly psychopathic little sister. Her super intelligence and lack of remorse made for a frightening combination, but despite her odd behavior, it can somewhat be gleaned that she did indeed care for her older sister and was greatly affected by her death. Nola’s unique perspective gave the story a bit of an edge, a feeling of uneasiness from not knowing where she might take us, because wherever that place is, it’s sure to be unpleasant.
Bottom line, This Is How I Lied was a great read. And yes, I deliberately focused more on the characters in my review rather than talk about the story, because it would be a shame to reveal too much. Needless to say, a lot was going on in this book, and thanks to these various elements, it made an otherwise typical cold case murder mystery into something truly different and special.
Audiobook Comments: As with most book with multiple POVs, I wish the audio edition had went with multiple narrators, especially since Maggie, Eve, and Nola were very dissimilar characters with such different personalities. Still, Brittany Pressley delivered a solid performance, and overall the audiobook was a good listen.