Behind Every Lie
Behind Every Lie is the second novel by Christina McDonald, and since I absolutely loved her 2019 release,The Night Olivia Fell, I was eager to give this one a try. It didn’t end up hooking me in quite as much as her first book did, but it’s a solid thriller in its own right.
Eva and her mother Kat have had a difficult relationship for as long as Eva can remember. It’s not that they don’t get along exactly, but Eva often feels unable to live up to Kat’s expectations, so there’s a certain distance between them now that Eva is grown up and out of the house. They still meet for dinner quite often, and Eva knows she’ll eventually have to introduce Kat to the man she’s engaged to, but for now, she’s content with things as they are.
When our story opens, Eva is waking up in a Seattle hospital. She’s been struck by lightning, and doctors aren’t sure what long-term effects this will have on her mind and body. Initially, Eva’s memories are pretty jumbled. She can’t remember why she went out in such a bad storm. Something tells her it had something to do with a text message she received from her mother, but she’s unable to locate the message on her phone. She’s urged to give herself time to recover before trying too hard to remember what happened, but that turns out to be impossible.
Not long after Eva wakes up, a police detective comes to talk to her. It seems Kat has been found murdered in her home, and Eva was struck by lightning only a few blocks away. The detective wants to know why Eva was in the area, and it soon becomes clear he suspects her of killing her mother. Everything in her tells Eva she couldn’t have committed such a terrible crime, but how can she prove her innocence when she has no memory of the night in question? Her fiancé urges her to get a lawyer and keep a low profile in hopes the police will move on to another line of inquiry, but Eva’s not sure that’s the best plan. Instead, she decides to leave the hospital and head to London, where Kat used to live. Maybe there she’ll find answers to the many questions she has about her mother’s life and her mysterious death.
The narrative moves back and forth between Eva’s perspective in the present and Kat’s some twenty-five years earlier, but we end up spending most of our time with Eva as she struggles to uncover the many secrets Kat has been keeping. The recent trauma she endured causes Eva to experience a number of significant physical and emotional changes. These changes, when coupled with the shock of Kat’s sudden and violent death, give our heroine quite a few obstacles to overcome, and I found myself fully invested in her struggle. McDonald does a wonderful job showing the reader how confused and distraught Eva feels as everything she thought she knew about herself and her mother is called into question. There’s nothing stereotypical or melodramatic about what she goes through, something I appreciated a great deal.
I didn’t always love Kat’s character. She’s very aloof and prickly, making it hard to empathize with her when the story is told from her perspective. She’s one of those people who is obsessed with her own brilliance, so I found myself a little frustrated by her inability to disentangle herself from certain rather shady goings-on. I wanted her to use her stellar brain power to make things right rather than going to extreme lengths that didn’t always make sense.
The mystery surrounding Kat’s death was pretty easy for me to solve, but that didn’t end up detracting too much from my overall enjoyment of the story. I love when an author can catch me completely off guard, but I know that’s not always possible when someone reads as many of these types of stories as I do. Much of this novel’s strength comes from Eva’s journey of self-discovery rather than from the mystery itself. If you pick this book up expecting to be utterly wowed by the big reveal, you might end up a little disappointed, so I’d advise setting all of your expectations aside if you can and appreciating the story for exactly what it is rather than what you were hoping it could be.
Behind Every Lie isn’t the best thriller I’ve read recently, but neither is it the worst. It’s a solid if flawed story that highlights the role past trauma plays in our everyday lives. I’d recommend it to those readers who don’t need to be blown away by a story’s twists and turns and to those who enjoy watching relatable women come into their own personal power.