This is definitely one of the harder mysteries that I have to review, or maybe I'm spoiled by the engrossing experience of the last mystery I read. The TL, DR version of this review: parts of it I really liked, and parts of it I didn't.
This is the first book I've read from Cate Holahan, and I can say from the get go that I want to read more from the author in the future for sure. I'm just not certain what side of the fence I fall on in reacting to "Lies She Told". It's a dual perspective story, though not in the way that you would typically find in a mystery of this scope. It's largely the story of a writer whose star has dimmed over the years (Liza Jones) and who struggles to write her next bestselling novel. But Liza throws herself into her work to distract from the fact that her life is falling apart - she wants to have a baby, but her husband is distracted by the sudden disappearance of his work partner, Nick.
The dual perspective is from the viewpoint of Beth, the heroine of Liza's story. Beth is a jilted wife who realizes her husband is having an affair as she's struggling to care for their newborn child. Beth becomes immensely jealous and wants to carve her own path to vengeance against her husband, but ends up murdering her husband's mistress with some complexities to face in the aftermath of that.
Fiction somewhat mirrors truth when Nick turns up dead in a river and Liza's husband is investigated for the disappearance/murder. The aim of the book makes it clear that the reader should question what is fiction and what is truth to Liza's life as details from Nick's murder surface. The aim of the book is fascinating and definitely something that intrigued me as I went through the story. However, there are some caveats that detracted from my experience a bit. The pacing in the story often lulled in moments where it switched between the perspectives of Liza and Beth. For a time, I found myself more immersed in Beth's perspective because she had the more compelling strength of grief and rage associated with her story (cheated lover, new mother, seeking to fill the void her husband left with his frequent departures and keeping her sanity together).
Liza's story wasn't as compelling to start (basically wanting a baby, husband more preoccupied with Nick's disappearance, and Liza wondering why she should care since Nick was a douchecanoe, though Nick and her husband lawyers who won a transgender rights case. I think as Nick's backstory came to light and the inference that his disappearance/murder possibly might've centered on a hate crime, I found myself more intrigued. Too bad it fizzled a little after that.)
As the story wove its way towards the end, the goalposts shifted a bit in terms of the whodunit to keep the reader guessing. The climax was very intense, particularly in the confrontation between Liza and her husband. However, the ending to Liza's story left me feeling unsatisfied from the experience, wanting a bit more meat than it provided for the set up. It tied up some loose ends, but not in a way that I really felt attached to. Beth's ending was a suitable one given the framework of the story and knowing where Liza's mind was by the end of the book, as well as her authorial choice to end Beth's story the way she did. But I still was like "Ehhh, that could've been a little more fulfilling."
In the end, I'm glad I read it. The writing had strong, compelling moments where it hooked me, yet the conclusion made it so the one-time read was enough for me. Definitely curious to see what else Holahan has in her bibliography.
Overall score: 3/5 stars.
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley from the publisher.