J.P. Delaney’s début novel The Girl Before didn’t work terribly well for me, but I decided to give his second novel, Believe Me, a try anyway, and I found it to be a bit of a mixed bag.
Claire is an actress who left Britain in hopes of getting away from a love affair gone wrong, but she’s now in the U.S. without a green card, so finding a job is quite a bit more challenging than she expected. She’s desperate for work, so she takes a rather questionable position as a sort of decoy for a firm of divorce lawyers. Her job involves making herself available to the husbands of the firm’s clients in hopes of catching them in the act of being unfaithful to their wives – and it’s far from Claire’s dream job. She’d much rather be starring in a super successful play, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and Claire decides to stick with it until something better comes along.
But one night, everything goes terribly wrong, leaving Claire in a tenuous position. The wife of one of Claire’s targets is found murdered in an upscale hotel room, and Claire was one of the last people to have seen her alive. Now, the police are incredibly interested in Claire’s movements, and she begins to fear being sent back to London. Fortunately, suspicion soon turns away from Claire, and the police turn their attention to Patrick, the husband of the murdered woman. But getting Patrick to confess to killing his wife proves difficult, and the lead detective on the case hires Claire to seduce Patrick into a confession.
Claire considers herself to be a great actress, so she jumps at the chance to get involved with the investigation. It doesn’t hurt that she is promised a green card once the case has been successfully closed, so she assumes a new identity and begins to insinuate herself into Patrick’s life.
I was struck almost immediately by the implausibility of this premise. It doesn’t seem at all likely that the police would involve a civilian in a murder investigation and then promise to get her a green card as payment. Even so, I found myself oddly fascinated by the many twists and turns the story takes, even though some of them came off as a little bit ridiculous.
Parts of this novel are formatted like a screenplay. There are stage directions interspersed throughout the text, and I must admit to finding this writing style rather distracting. I imagine it’s supposed to be original, but I would have preferred something more traditional and less jarring.
Readers should expect to be utterly confused while reading this particular thriller. Things do become clear toward the end of the book, but I struggled to follow the story up until that point. This is something I sort of expect from a thriller, but I know some readers prefer things to be a little more straightforward.
Claire is a difficult character to warm up to. I was frustrated by her huge ego and her unwillingness to think before she acts, but she does get better as the story progresses. In fact, I actually found myself cheering her on when things got dicey.
If you, like me, prefer your mysteries to be on the realistic side, Believe Me isn’t likely to work well for you. However, if you’re willing and/or able to suspend your disbelief and follow the rather convoluted trail the author is trying to lead you down, you just might find this to be an enjoyable enough read.