Excerpt from The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Lies I Tell

A Novel

by Julie Clark

The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark X
The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark
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    Jun 2022, 320 pages

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This time, it's a $10,000-­a-­plate fundraiser. After nearly ten years, I feel right at home among the extravagant trappings of the rich—­the original artwork on the walls, the antiques that cost more than most people make in a year, and the hired help I pretend not to notice, quietly moving through homes like this one, perched high on a hill with all of Los Angeles glittering below us.

If you're one of my targets, know that I've chosen you carefully. It's likely you're in the midst of a major life change—­a lost job, a divorce, the death of a close family member. Or a heated run for elected office that you're on the verge of losing. Emotional people take risks. They don't think clearly, and they're eager to believe whatever fantasy I feed them.

Social media has become my primary research tool, with its check-­ins, geo-­tags, and shameless self-­promotion. And those quizzes some of your friends take and share? Dogs or cats? Number of brothers and sisters? Most of the questions seem harmless, but the next time you see one, take a closer look. Name five places you've lived or Four names you go by—­both of which allow me to approach you. John? It's me, Meg! From Boise, remember? I knew your sister.

It's so easy, it's criminal.

I spend hundreds of hours on observation and research. Profiling the different people in your life, finding the one I can befriend, the one who will lead me to you. When I'm done, I know everything I possibly can about you, and most of the people around you. By the time you're saying nice to meet you, I've already known you for months.

Does this worry you? It should.

_______________


"Have you tried the crab cakes?" Veronica appears at my elbow, a cocktail napkin in hand. We've become close in the six months I've been back in Los Angeles, having met in a yoga class in Santa Monica, our mats positioned next to each other in the back. What started as a friendly greeting with a stranger at the beginning of class was a budding friendship by the end. It's amazing how easy Instagram stories make it to put yourself in the right place at the right time, next to the right person.

"I haven't," I tell her. "I heard they're serving filet mignon for dinner, so I'm saving myself for that."

There's a heat inside my chest, the slow burn of excitement I always get when I start a new job. I enjoy this part the most I think, the setting of the hook. Savoring the delicious anticipation of what's about to happen. No matter how many times I do this, I never tire of the thrill this moment always brings.

Veronica crumples her napkin. "You're missing out, Meg."

It's still a shock to hear people use my real name. I've gone by many over the years, mostly variations of my own—­Margaret, Melody, Maggie. Backstories that range from college student to freelance photographer and most recently interior decorator and life coach to celebrities, all of them elaborate fabrications. Roles I played to near perfection. But tonight, I'm here as myself, someone I haven't been for a very long time.

I'd had no choice in the matter. My entry into this job required me to get my real estate license, and there was no getting around the social security number and fingerprinting. But that's okay, because this time I want my name to be known. For Ron Ashton—­developer, local politician, and candidate for state senator—­to know it was me who took everything from him. Not just his money, but the reputation he's spent years cultivating.

I see him across the room, his broad shoulders a few inches above everyone else's, his gray hair neatly combed, talking to Veronica's husband, his campaign manager.

Veronica follows my gaze and says, "David says the election is going to be close. That Ron can't afford a single misstep in these last few months."

Excerpted from The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark. Copyright © 2022 by Julie Clark. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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