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Monday, May 18, 2020

Unconvincing Mystery/Thriller Not Super Satisfying

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Considering it's named for the dark, serpentine cave system that lurks at its edge, it's not all that surprising that little Grotto, Iowa, is hiding big secrets.  The largest surrounds the vicious murder of a teenage girl twenty-five years ago.  Found inside one of the caves, her battered body revealed she had been beaten and strangled.  Although several suspects were investigated at the time, no one has ever been charged for the murder. 

When new evidence is discovered in the cave, the case of Eve Knox's murder is reopened.  This time, Detective Maggie Kennedy O'Keefe—the daughter of the police chief who initially spearheaded the investigation—is in charge.  Despite the fact that she's 8 months pregnant after a decade of miscarrying, Eve's childhood best friend, and the person who found her friend's dead body 25 years ago, Maggie insists she's up to the task.  As she revisits evidence, she's reminded of the many people who could have been responsible for Eve's death, from the girl's abusive boyfriend to her creepy younger sister to a neighbor who would kill to keep her from talking.  As Maggie tries to untangle the truth from the lies, she must face the secrets she's been keeping.  Risking the disintegration of everything good in her life, Maggie persists—even with her own life and that of her unborn baby on the line.

My favorite setting for mystery/thrillers is small towns like Grotto.  They're always concealing such juicy secrets!  Unfortunately, while the premise of This Is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf appealed to me, its execution didn't so much.  The novel is peopled with unlikeable characters, implausible plot points, and a heroine who isn't all that convincing as a detective.  Despite these irritants, I did finish the book because I wanted to know what was going to happen.  In the end, though, I found This Is How I Lied to be depressing, far-fetched, and not all that satisfying.  It turned out to be just an average read for me. 

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of books by Catherine McKenzie and Erin Kelly)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language, violence, sexual content, blood/gore, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of This Is How I Lied from the generous folks at Harlequin.  Thank you!


  1. A shame, I generally enjoy Gudenkauf’s novels. Thanks for sharing your thoughts

  2. Hmmm...well, that's a shame. However, I'll try it myself in a while and see what I think. Are you finding, like me, that some books that normally work for you are a bit difficult right now? And then there is also the idea that we can't love and relate to every book, even those by authors we've enjoyed in the past.

  3. How disappointing. I was hoping this one would be a better read... because it does have such a great premise.

  4. I've seen a lot of mixed reviews for this one. I agree that characters can make or break a novel, so unlikable ones definitely tank this one.

  5. Its too bad this one didn't work for you Susan. I enjoyed it, but you are right, the characters were extremely unlikable, which usually turns me off. I guess with lots of cozies lately, I was ready for something a bit darker. Nice honest review.

  6. I've heard amazing things about this author but none of her books really appealed to me. I'm definitely not in the mood for a depressing read!


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