Review: “Beautiful Lies,” Lisa Unger

Pros: Riveting, complex
Cons: Breaks the fourth wall in odd places
Rating: 4 out of 5

Lisa Unger’s Beautiful Lies (Ridley Jones) (also available in a set with three other novels: Four Thrillers by Lisa Unger) is a thriller about identity, self-identity, and family. It’s told in the first person from the point of view of Ridley, who’s about to find out that she was… well, not adopted, exactly. But what she does figure out will stir up years of plots, unwise partnerships, and other things that could kill her if she doesn’t stop poking around.

 

I really like the characters in this one. They had depth and complexity. Ridley broke up with Zack not all that long ago, and is falling for Jake, her new neighbor. When she gets a picture left for her accompanied by the text, “Are you my daughter?”, she has no urge to pursue it. After all, she knows her parents quite well. Even if she does seem to be the spitting image of the woman in the picture. Of course her curiosity won’t leave her alone, so she goes off to talk to her probably-not-father, only to see him shot in front of her. The cops get involved, including a Detective who thinks Ridley’s a decent person in way over her head. Her curiosity and stubbornness, of course, lead her inexorably onward, no matter who tries to stop her. One of the people she knows even tries to gaslight her into giving up; it was depicted beautifully.

At one point I looked up from my reading and had that odd, disorienting sensation of wondering why the world hasn’t changed around you, because you’re so focused on the book.

It’s amazing how many little (and big) lies are holding up Ridley’s world. The only thing I had trouble buying into was the fact that she didn’t have a cell phone, because I’d think she’d need one too much.

My favorite part is that without giving up the pacing and questioning of a thriller, the author beautifully works in themes of identity, family, relationships, and secrets. We get to see both how weak and how strong these things can be, how resilient and how fragile.

“We don’t have control, we have choices.”

The story is told in first person from Ridley’s point of view. It’s jarring when she suddenly slips into second person, directly addressing the reader. I thought it was an unnecessary thing, mostly used for one extended scene when the author used it to virtually look in on someone else with a lame excuse of ‘this is what I learned later’.

This book was very interesting. I was sad to see what happened to some of the relationships in her life. I did appreciate that the author did not include a cliffhanger of any kind.

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