Seb Kirby, master of the unreliable narrator: An independent novel review



Here the Truth Lies review

independent review of Here the Truth LiesSeb Kirby has once again hit it out of the park.

Seb Kirby has proven he’s a master of the unreliable narrator. In his 2016 novel, Sugar for Sugar, Kirby presented Issy Cunningham, a woman who wakes up with no memory, but is implicated in a murder. Kirby managed a difficult literary trick, in teasing out the true story bit by bit in a way that compelled readers to keep turning the page (or swiping the screen). His previous novel, Each Day I Wake, is about a man who has no memory other than nightmares of young women dying gruesome deaths. (Read my review.)

With his new novel, Here the Truth Lies, Kirby returns to the theme of the unreliable narrator in journalist Emma Chamberlain. At the beginning of the book, she sees a ghost in her bedroom late at night. We soon learn she’s drinking way too much whiskey, and she’s obsessed with chasing down an 18-year-old story that her boss doesn’t want her to.

While those details make readers doubt whether they’d ever hire Emma Chamberlain for any job, Emma soon finds an old photograph that makes her wonder: is she really Emma Chamberlain, or has she taken over someone else’s identity? More clues compound her self-doubt, but without giving the story away before the plot demands.

Kirby brings back his London detectives, Detective Sergeant June Lesley and Detective Inspector Stephen Ives, the investigators from Sugar for Sugar. They’re not typical of the mystery genre. Ives is a crusty, gruff and easily irritated middle-aged detective. Lesley is cool, smart, younger, and more comfortable with the changes in the culture. But while they work together effectively, they don’t necessarily like each other. It’s a refreshing change from the typical cop-buddy style.

The author also introduces a chilling villain in multiple killer Evan Cargill. Former military, former mercenary, he’s a hulking, driven and terrifying character.

The review

Bestselling author Seb KirbySeb Kirby has a easy-reading, fast paced style that puts the reader exactly in the situation with the characters. I loved reading about real places in London, and I felt what his characters felt. He is skilled at letting readers see through his characters’ eyes. And he knows how to keep the tension high.

This is Kirby’s strength: originality. His stories are not derivative, and while he respects the forms of the mystery-thriller genre, you cannot predict where the story is going. He gives the reader plenty of clues, and crafts seamless plots without glaring coincidences.

And as if that’s not challenging enough, Kirby also decided to publish Here the Truth Lies first in paperback, and in e-book form after a couple of months. It’s a marketing tactic, not a literary one, but it does add to the workload. It will be interesting to see the results.

Well done, Mr. Kirby. Another excellent novel.

5*

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Visit Seb Kirby’s website and blog.

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