Monday, March 16, 2009

An unexceptional but entertaining novel

Never Tell a Lie: A Novel of Suspense
by Hallie Ephron

As this novel opens, we are introduced to the seemingly idyllic suburban life of David and Ivy Rose. The high-school sweethearts have been married for ten years, and after three painful miscarriages, they are finally expecting their first child. Imminently--Ivy is about nine months pregnant, and is in full nesting glory. She and David are clearing junk out of their house and selling whatever they can in a yard sale. At the sale, they are approached by Melinda White, an old high-school acquaintance they haven't seen in years. This unpopular ugly duckling has blossomed into a swan. So much so that Ivy and David can barely believe it's the same woman. Melinda is also enormously pregnant, and seems eager to catch up with the Roses. Unfortunately, despite her new look, she's as socially awkward as she was as a teenager. Ivy appears to be desperate to escape her company, so David offers Melinda a tour of their house. Problem solved, and soon David and Ivy are back to their normal routine.

That is, until two days later they return from a doctor's appointment to find a police cruiser parked in front of their house. Suddenly the police are asking questions about Melinda. She hasn't been seen since their yard sale. In fact, literally no one saw her exit the house after she entered with David. And then incriminating physical evidence starts to turn up that neither Ivy nor David can explain. The police are doing everything possible to put a wedge between the couple. Soon Ivy (through who's eyes the story is viewed) has begun to doubt everything she believes to be true.

In the headline above I called the book unexceptional but entertaining. It's a quick, uncomplicated read, and I don't mind admitting that sometimes that's exactly what I'm in the mood for. Ephron does such a good job salting hints and clues throughout the novel that a savvy reader won't have too much difficulty figuring out what's going on before the Roses and the police do. Nonetheless, once the action gets going (really only after the cops show up) things move along briskly and I found myself reading past midnight to finish the novel in a single day. Truthfully, I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend Never Tell a Lie, but if you're a fan of Mary Higgins Clark and her ilk, you'll probably enjoy it.

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