Her Dark Lies
Her Dark Lies is the latest stand alone thriller from J.T. Ellison. I was eager to review it since I’ve loved several of the author’s other books, and the synopsis looked pretty incredible. Unfortunately for me, it didn’t take me very long at all to realize this book simply wasn’t something I would enjoy. It’s hard to explain exactly why it didn’t work, but I’ll give it a try.
Claire Hunter and Jack Compton are the kind of couple everyone envies. They’re rich, powerful, good-looking, and madly in love. And now, it’s time for them to pledge their love in front of friends and family, and their wedding is sure to be one of the biggest events of the year. It’s being held at the Comptons’ island villa, located just off the coast of Italy, a beautiful place to start a beautiful life.
However, all is not as it appears between Jack and Claire. Both are hiding dangerous secrets, and from the moment they set foot on the island, it becomes clear to the reader that someone is determined to spoil their happiness. Unfortunately, some of the ways they go about it are closer to ridiculous than menacing, making it difficult for me to really believe in the threat.
The novel has a large cast of characters, and almost all of them have a tidbit of information to add to the story. The narrative perspective is constantly changing, and while this is normally a writing style I usually enjoy, I found it unnecessarily jarring here. So much of what the characters reveal feels extraneous, almost as if Ellison was trying too hard to confuse me. The secrets aren’t shocking, and many of the motivations feel contrived.
Unlikable main characters aren’t normally a deal-breaker for me, especially when it comes to mysteries, but Claire and Jack take unlikable to a whole new level. The over-the-top lives they lead make them difficult to relate to, and the sense of entitlement they exhibit on an almost constant basis was a complete turn-off. To be honest, I kind of wanted to ruin their wedding too.
The identity of the villain was painfully obvious. In her previous novels, Ellison does a fantastic job laying a false trail for readers to follow, but that doesn’t happen here. To be fair, this might have more to do with the amount of mysteries I read than with the quality of the writing, but any way you slice it, I had the villain pegged about a third of the way through the book, not something likely to endear a book to me.
If you loved The Guest List, the 2020 release from author Lucy Foley, elements of Her Dark Lies might appeal to you. For me though, both books were a huge disappointment, and I think I’ll be taking a huge step back from books set on remote islands for now. I’m sure it’s possible to write a great one, but it’ll be awhile before I give this trope another try.