Audiobook Review: Her Dark Lies by J.T. Ellison
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): 3 of 5 stars
Genre: Thriller, Suspense
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Harlequin Audio (March 9, 2021)
Length: 11 hrs and 54 mins
Author Information: Website | Twitter
Narrator: Brittany Pressley
I’ll admit, a huge part of what drew me to Her Dark Lies was several of the story’s similarities to The Guest List, i.e., a remote island, a brewing storm, a wedding party from hell, and people dropping dead from murder. And because of this, I think it’s possible that my lofty expectations were primed for the eventual disappointment. It’s not that this was a bad book, but I do wish that the story had been more original and that the ending hadn’t been such a hot mess.
The novel begins with an introduction to the happy couple. Once a struggling artist, Claire Hunter is about to marry charming and handsome Jack Compton, scion of a multi-billionaire tech tycoon family. Desperately in love, the two of them plan to tie the knot on a private island owned by the Comptons, a small patch of paradise situated in the sparkling waters off the Italian coast. Everything about the highly publicized details surrounding their upcoming wedding seem to come straight out of a fairy tale.
But what no one knows is that both Claire and Jack have secrets hidden in their past. Just days before their wedding, their home gets broken into, and the intruder is shot and killed. Shaken but determined to go ahead with their wedding plans, Claire travels with Jack to his family’s island with a terrible feeling that their troubles have just begun. Sure enough, more disturbing things occur as soon as they arrive. A nearby excavation unearths a skeleton. Claire’s wedding dress is found vandalized with a threatening message written in blood. The Compton’s company servers end up being hacked. The weather reports also say a bad storm is rolling in, cautioning against strong winds and possible blackouts. What more can go wrong?
But wait, there’s more! From the start, Claire has always known about Jack’s first wife, the beautiful and elegant Morgan who had drowned in a boating accident more than ten years ago. He’s asked for them to never speak of her, and Claire has respected those wishes. Now that they’re on Jack’s family’s island though, the shadow of his first wife can be felt stronger than ever. Although Claire has promised not to ask about Morgan, she has been doing her own research on the side, and some things just don’t add up. And then, when the storm hits, the resulting chaos is as bad as everyone expected, getting worse as the first body is soon found.
So, there lot’s to unpack here. Normally, this would be a point in favor of the book, especially a thriller where practically every character has a dark past and something to hide. Indeed, as information begins trickling out about both Jack and Claire, one might begin to wonder which of them is actually sitting on a bigger mountain of secrets or has the more fucked up life. Problem is though, the storytelling style is pretty awkward, with disjointed POV changes and events unfolding through Jack and Claire’s perspectives and one other whose identity I won’t reveal in case of spoilers. I can’t say I was entirely on board with the narrative switches, which I found distracting and slightly confusing.
I suppose the plot was entertaining and suspenseful enough, but at the same time, it was nothing that hasn’t already been done before. The mystery aspect was decent, though not very inspired, and if you’re an avid reader of the genre, you might find a lot of it to be predictable. After checking out some other reviews, I was also relieved to find I’m not crazy—there are definitely elements of this story that call to mind Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, including one particular incident that might have been a clear nod to the infamous dress scene, making me think it cannot be a coincidence. Something to keep in mind if allusions like that are your thing.
Ultimately though, I have to say I was enjoying myself up until the ending, which was when the book lost me. Now, I’ve read enough thrillers that I’d like to think I have a pretty high threshold for suspending my disbelief, but even I thought it was a bit too much. At the same time, everything also played out exactly as I predicted, with stupidly over-the-top twists and all, resulting in this strangely surreal sensation as I was watching it all unfold, and not really in a good way.
Overall, I would put Her Dark Lies squarely in the middle-of-the-road pile as far as thrillers go. Definitely not in the same league as The Guest List, at least for me, but if you’re drawn to some of shared themes and ideas between the two novels, it might be worth a look.
Audiobook Comments: I liked the narrator, but as always when it comes to any story featuring more than one major POV, part of me feels this was a missed opportunity for multiple readers. Still, Brittany Pressley did a great job with her narration, and kept me immersed and engaged.
Thank you! I noticed similarities between the two books but you’re the first person who has come out and said they liked ‘The Guest List’ more, I appreciate it. These are both on my reading list and now I have a better idea of which one to start with.
Great review, thank you again, and a very happy Easter! 🌹
I think to me the story of The Guest List felt more…coherent? LOL. It read more like a proper locked room mystery, and it seemed like the author did more meticulous planning with her characters to make the plot. In comparison, this one felt more slapdash and disorganized, if that makes sense 😀
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Oh, yeah, that definitely makes sense! It’s really helpful actually. I’ll plan to read ‘The Guest List’ first. 😆😂
I seldom get to hear multiple pov narrations, to bad this was not one then 😉 But yay still a good one
I think it’s happening more and more, where they get multiple narrators for multiple povs. I like this trend 😀
It’s so hard when a book has a similar plot to something else but just doesn’t do it as well. I’ve been hearing mostly good things about this but maybe those reviewers haven’t read The Guest List😁
Haha, I’ve seen some reviews from readers who have read The Guest List but also enjoyed this a lot, so maybe it’s just me 😛
Hmmm… sorry this one didn’t work out better. You mentioned Rebecca about the same time I was thinking parts sounded a little like that. Some parts also brought to mind And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, which I recently finished. No wedding party, but folks stuck on an island, slowly being killed off.
Yeah, the more I think about it, the more I believe the Rebecca allusions were deliberate. The author didn’t mention anything in their acknowledgements nor was it implied anywhere in the marketing materials though, so you have to wonder… And ah, Agatha Christie! The queen of the locked room mysteries!
As previous commenters already remarked, the similarity with “Rebecca” was evident from your synopsis, and that would not have been a problem, but it would seem that the story failed to offer something new or to be at least consistent. I’m sorry it disappointed you, but sometimes things don’t work out as we hoped… Better luck with your next read! 🙂
Yeah I just wish this one had offered a little more innovation – seems like a lot of thrillers these days involve the same recycled plot lines with minor changes. And yes, if the author was in fact influenced by Rebecca, more of a reason there should have been something more to set this one apart.
I just bought Good Girls Lie by her and am intrigued after reading her Author’s Note on it. I didn’t realize she had written so many books. This one looked good to me too but now… not so sure. 🙂
“sitting on a bigger mountain of secrets”
Yeah normally that’d be a plus for me too, but here… huh sounds like it just doesn’t work. I guess I’ll read Good Girls Lie and see how I feel about it before deciding on this one! The Guest List might be a better pick…
I didn’t realize the author had a lot more books as well! That’s interesting, I never heard of Good Girls Lie, but just looking at the reviews for Her Dark Lies on Goodreads, a lot of readers reference GGL in a positive light so it sounds like it could be really good! I hope you get to read it soon, I’m curious what you think!
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