Free Press Journal

Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica: Review


Title: Every Last Lie
Author : Mary Kubica
Publisher: Imprint of Harper Collins

Price:  Rs 350

Pages: 370

I sometimes wonder if blurb writers ever read the entire manuscript they are describing for jackets. Or do they rely on a hyped-up précis submitted by the author? Or are they merely superb marketers and imaginaires and so spin out a blurb which outdoes, outpaces and out-thrills the actual book itself?

Something of the sort must surely have taken place here. For the back of the book blurb of “Every Last Lie” definitely packs in something of a punch. I was interested. And looking forward to reading a first class humdinger of a crime novel, waiting for the mystery to be solved and resolved. It read: “She always trusted her husband. Until he died.”

In big red font. Like a headline. Below in normal body text font the following: “Clara Solberg’s world shatters when her husband and daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed.

“But when Maisie starts having nightmares, Clara becomes obsessed that Nick’s death was far more than just an accident.

“Who wanted her husband dead? And, more importantly, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out the truth – even if it makes her question whether her entire marriage has been a lie….”

See what I mean? You, an avid crime fiction reader, would pick up the book on the strength of these words, wouldn’t you? Three hundred and seventy pages later you might be feeling like I did. Utterly, thoroughly disappointed. These are strong words and rarely do I judge any author so harshly.

Every Last Lie, begins on a promising note. The promise of dark mysteries to come contained in the blurb. The promise of a story plunging right in, beginning with the accident of Clara’s husband and daughter. Our hearts are further wrung as Clara has delivered a baby boy just a few days earlier. The promise of halcyon days to come anticipated prior to his arrival by both Clara and Nick. And with avid interest one follows Clara, her baby and young daughter Maisie’s travails as they traverse the road to the discovery of ‘What happened that fateful night?’

There are all kinds of tear jerking moments thrown in. Maisie’s nightmare nights. Clara’s parents – mother suffering some form of dementia; ageing father bravely looking after wife and home and attempting to fend for Clara and her kids as well. But they are sidelights and really don’t add anything to the central core story.

Neither do the red herrings add any meat to the tale. Like Clara’s parents’ help who appears to be angelic but has been skimming off them for years; or her neighbour who so apparently is being physically abused by her husband who has a violent temper. Or the woman from Nick’s past who has popped up after years to name him as the father of her son (incidentally born within wedlock to another man) and has been dragging him through a paternity test. They are vignettes at best. And they remain red herrings.

And after a build-up of three hundred and seventy pages what emerges? Nothing. Simply nothing. He is not the father of the child of his college days’ girlfriend (all that is wishful thinking on her part!). The thread of the thieving caregiver unravels and hangs uselessly. The bogeyman of Maisie’s hair-raising nightmares has done nothing more that sock Nick in the jaw in front of his little daughter. And the final let-down – Nick has not been killed. He was not being chased by another vehicle. He has merely been careless. His last thoughts were of family and wife.

So, Amen. Clara’s marriage was not a lie. Her husband was not a liar. All is explained. And how? In the voice, not only of Clara herself, but of Nick as well. Both narrating bits of the story as it unravels. Nick helpfully explaining what was in his mind and about key questions Clara has been harbouring in her mind. I have rarely read such a damp squib of a book. A case of making a mountain of a molehill –  which is more colourfully expressed in Hindi – “Khoda pahad, nikla chuha”!!

And what is worse, Mary Kubica is not even a great prose writer. Sometimes, you can excuse a weak plot, some awkward devices to resolve the mystery. If they are compensated by great writing – building characters, sketching society, some great humour, or satire. But alas! Kubica’s work bears no traces of any of this. So, ultimately the only lie is the promise and build-up…of what the book is!