Two Truths and a Lie: Book summary and reviews of Two Truths and a Lie by Ellen McGarrahan

Two Truths and a Lie

A Murder, a Private Investigator, and Her Search for Justice

by Ellen McGarrahan

Two Truths and a Lie by Ellen McGarrahan X
Two Truths and a Lie by Ellen McGarrahan
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Book Summary

In this powerful memoir, a journalist turned private investigator revisits the case that has haunted her for decades, asking profound questions about grief, complicity, and justice.

In 1990, Ellen McGarrahan was a young reporter for the Miami Herald when she covered the execution of Jesse Tafero, a man convicted of murdering two police officers. When it later emerged that Tafero may have been innocent, McGarrahan was appalled by her unquestioning acceptance of the state's version of events. The revelation propelled her into a new career as a private investigator.

Decades later, McGarrahan finally decides to find out the truth of what really happened in Florida. Her investigation plunges her back into the Miami of the 1960s and 1970s, a dangerous world of nightclubs, speed boats, and cartels, all awash in violence. She combs through stacks of court files and interviews everyone involved in the case. But even as McGarrahan circles closer to the truth, the story of guilt and innocence becomes more complex, and she gradually discovers that she hasn't been alone in her need for closure. Because whenever a human life is forcibly taken—by bullet, or by electric chair—the reckoning is long and difficult for all.

A fascinating glimpse into the mind of a private investigator, Two Truths and a Lie is ultimately a deeply personal exploration of one woman's quest to find answers in a chaotic world.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"McGarrahan's blend of detective work and insights into the criminal justice system make this must reading for fans of Errol Morris's The Thin Blue Line." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"[A]n engrossing, authoritative fusion of true crime and memoir...Although her reflections are occasionally redundant, McGarrahan captures a keen sense of place and the significance of the entire ordeal. An accomplished, unsettling look at a confounding crime and larger issues of memory, culpability, and punishment." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"In these beautifully written pages, the decades-long quest of journalist–turned–private detective Ellen McGarrahan to come to terms with an unusually cruel death-row execution that she witnessed early in her career becomes both page-turning whodunit and sobering assessment of the American justice system. We walk, at times nervously, in McGarrahan's footsteps as she reinvestigates the brutal murder that led to that ugly execution, and we find ourselves weeping with her when it becomes clear that there is only one thing of which we can be certain: In our country, meting out punishment is far easier than seeking, finding, and telling the truth." - Heather Ann Thompson, author of Blood in the Water

"Two Truths and a Lie is a masterpiece—more honest than In Cold Blood and more profound than The Executioner's Song. This riveting memoir of a private investigator's search for the buried truth about a shocking tragedy is a brilliant addition to the literature of crime and punishment." - David Von Drehle, New York Times bestselling author of Triangle

"Two Truths and a Lie is both mesmerizing page-turner and haunting meditation on various shades of guilt. Ellen McGarrahan is an investigator with the storytelling chops of a novelist, and her tour de force goes well beyond traditional true crime. As the best stories do, Two Truths and a Lie leads us through a fascinating case at breakneck speed, until we find ourselves confronting the elusive nature of truth itself." - Claudia Rowe, author of The Spider and the Fly

This information about Two Truths and a Lie shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

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Reader Reviews

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Victoria

Worthwhile, but not great
Thanks to Random House and Netgalley for providing this ARC. This is an interesting investigation and memoir that I would categorize as a lesser version of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. The author goes from naive cub reporter to a haunted and obsessive private detective, searching for answers that may never come in the hopes of finding peace for herself. The investigative parts got me hooked quickly (and I originally had zero expectations for this at all) but as I got further and further into the book, I started to lose a bit of interest in the solving of the questions and by the end I felt that it was really dragging. Recommended for true crime fans.

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Author Information

Ellen McGarrahan

Ellen McGarrahan worked for a decade as an investigative reporter at newspapers in New York City, Miami, and San Francisco before accidentally finding her calling as a private detective. Two Truths and a Lie is her first book.

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