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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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  • First Published:
    Jun 2022, 320 pages

    Mar 2023, 320 pages


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Summer Devlin

The Lies I Tell
A wonderful, engrossing read. Much like Julie Clark's first book, "The Last Flight" I was impressed with the two, strong women. Julie always researches her stories with great emphasis on accuracy. Whether it is real estate or politics - she knows her subjects well. Her books are hard to put down.

very good book
The new thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of The Last Flight!

She's back. Meg Williams. Maggie Littleton. Melody Wilde. Different names for the same person, depending on the town, depending on the job. She's a con artist who erases herself to become whoever you need her to be?a college student. A life coach. A real estate agent. Nothing about her is real. She slides alongside you and tells you exactly what you need to hear, and by the time she's done, you've likely lost everything.

Kat Roberts has been waiting ten years for the woman who upended her life to return. And now that she has, Kat is determined to be the one to expose her. But as the two women grow closer, Kat's long-held assumptions begin to crumble, leaving Kat to wonder who Meg's true target is.

Another Absorbing Mystery from the Talented Julie Clark
Bestselling author Julie Clark was fascinated by a podcast about a con artist who "went to elaborate lengths to lure in his victims, gain their trust, and then steal everything they owned." She envisioned female con artists being even more effective because women are generally perceived as less threatening than men. She asked herself, "Would people be more inclined to trust them?"

From the outset, Clark makes Meg a richly sympathetic con artist. Early in the story, Meg reveals that her latest target, Ron Ashton, tricked her mother, robbed them of what was rightfully theirs, and is now a powerful politician. Meg's first-person narrative is highly effective and heightens her story's emotional impact. She explains that Ashton "tore my life apart, sending my mother into a downward spiral she never recovered from and leaving me to live alone in a car for my final year of high school and beyond." Meg describes how her mother longed for a true partner, believing women should stand on their own, but fell victim to the scheming, deceitful Ashton. Meg's dreams were crushed and she learned to take refuge in libraries, using the computers there to establish a dating profile that ensured at least three dinner dates per week in order to stay fed. Living in her car, she worked at the YMCA where she was able to shower before her shift and hide her true circumstances from her boss and coworkers. She was never quite able to save enough enough money to get a place to live due to car registration fees, rising gas prices, and parking tickets issued as a result of the ongoing search for a safe place to park and catch a few hours of sleep. She inadvertently fell into a life of grifting when she discovered the profile on a dating site of a math teacher, Cory Dempsey, at her high school. Crafting a fake identity and life story, Meg used her knowledge about the forty-eight-year-old, who had been promoted to high school principal, as a basis for her first scam. Initially, she was motivated by her need for a safe place to live. But as she learned more about him, she formulated a plan to extract revenge and found she enjoyed being someone else. Eventually, Meg reached the point that "harming someone who harmed someone she cared about felt right to her" and found a lucrative career as a con artist.

Meg explains how she creates elaborate, detailed backstories about herself, focuses on specific targets, and "plays the long game," taking time to study her prey. She methodically infiltrates her victims' lives, heavily using social media to establish connections with her victims' friends and business associates. That way, the mutual acquaintance can vouch for her when she finally meets the victim, corroborating details of the identity she has fabricated. And she reinvests in her business, using the money she makes from her cons to fund her future scams. She keeps meticulous records of her pursuits.

By the time Meg meets Kat, she has been spent ten years perfecting her techniques, all in preparation for and leading up to the one big con that will destroy Ashton, the man who ruined her life. As Meg compellingly explains, being a con artist is not just a role she never planned to play. It is a lonely existence and she has no intention of being a grifter indefinitely.

When Kat and Meg's lives intersected a decade ago, Kat's career as an investigative journalist was just beginning. Chasing the Cory Dempsey story, she saw a chance to score an interview with a reluctant witness. It could lead not only to the discovery of new and shocking information about the story, but also, perhaps, to details about Meg herself that would enable her to successfully pitch a story about her and allow Kat to advance in a highly competitive industry. Her risk did not pay off. Instead, her life quickly derailed. She was "collateral damage" as a result of a series of events set in motion by Meg. She has blamed Meg ever since, determined to expose Meg as the fraud that she is and put her life back in order. Clark also employs a first-person narrative to convey Kat's story, pulling readers into her innermost thoughts and motivations in chapters that alternate with Meg's account. Kat reveals that she knows blaming Meg for what happened to her is not entirely rational, but she embarks, like Meg, on a mission to "balance the scales."

Kat is living with her fiancé, Scott, a police detective with a gambling problem, when she learns that Meg has returned. Meg is posing as a real estate broker, and Kat secures a job as Meg's assistant. She plans to infiltrate Meg's life, ingratiating herself in much the way that Meg does with her victims, in order to gather enough evidence to finally write the exposé that will unmask Meg and establish Kat as a credible, respected journalist. She believes that Meg has no idea who she really is, but before long, Kat finds herself being reeled in by Meg, and doubting everything she thought she knew as she strives to keep her life from unraveling yet again. Trust is a theme Clark deftly explores through Kat's experiences. She made the mistake of trusting years ago and the consequences devastated her. But did she learn from the experience? Is her trust in Scott misplaced? Has she learned to trust her own instincts? And could her growing fondness for Meg, despite her knowledge of Meg's actions, undermine her efforts to get her life and career back on track?

The Lies I Tell is a smart, absorbing story about two women who craft false identities and attempt to con each other. Both are motivated by deep wounds inflicted by others who wronged them. In Meg's case, she lost her beloved mother as a result of Ashton's callous wrongdoing. Both women are intent on retribution, believing that they can exact justice and, in the process, free themselves from past hurts and forge for themselves the kind of futures they have long dreamed about. Clark cleverly keeps readers guessing "who is the cat and who is the mouse" in a tale that is simultaneously full of surprises and heart-wrenching. Clark has made Meg a relatable anti-hero for whom readers will find themselves rooting.

And The Lies I Tell is yet another cautionary tale about the dangers of social media. The methods Meg employs to gather insight into her victims and enable her to believably ingratiate herself in their lives illustrate the inherent dangers of posting personal details online. Posts detailing life experiences, birthplaces, current and past residences, jobs held, names of relatives, etc. can easily provide a con artist the entrée he/she seeks.

For Clark, The Lies I Tell is "about justice; it's about taking back what you think belongs to you.” And that theme is particularly poignant, resonant, and timely given that Clark's two protagonists are female and this is still "a world where women often get the short end of the stick."

Thanks to NetGalley for an Advance Reader's Copy of the book.
Robin B. (Olmsted Falls, OH)

The Lies I Tell
I greatly enjoyed this book. I loved the twists and turns and enjoyed the mouse and cat game played between the two main characters. I am now reading another book by the same author I was so impressed. Characters were well developed.
Tara T. (Carterville, IL)

The Lies I Tell
After reading The Last Flight and absolutely loving it I was really looking forward to The Lies I Tell. And it does not disappoint at all! I absolutely loved every minute of this book. I thought I had this all figured out only to realize I was way off. It was full of lots of twists and turns. I loved it! Highly recommended!!
Julia A. (New York, NY)

Clark does it again!
I didn't think Julie Clark could top The Last Flight, but top it she did! In Kat and Meg, she has given us two main characters about whom I has a reader came to care perhaps more than I should, given the human flaws of each. This book had me questioning even the very title. Whose lies? Meg's for sure, but Kat's too. When Meg's motives become clear, it's hard to know whether to call her a grafter or a vigilante. Kat's lies get her close to Meg, but her motives are to me less pure perhaps than Meg's. To avoid spoilers, I will just say that in the end the male characters who wronged the female characters get what they deserve (with a possible exception) and this woman, for one, has to come to the guilty admission that she has been rooting for that to happen. The plot details are intricate enough to hold the reader's interest throughout. I look forward to more from Julie Clark.
Michele N. (Bethesda, MD)

The Lies I Tell
After reading Clark's "The Last Flight," I became a fan and looked forward to her next book. "The Lies I Tell" was just as good, maybe better. I found Meg (Maggie? Melody?) and Kat to be more believable than the two women in "The Last Flight." I was pulled into the story line from the beginning. It alternates between the two women, although I found Meg's character more fleshed out than Kat. The story is suspenseful with plenty of twists and turns. And towards the end, when you think you've got it figured out, you're wrong! Highly recommend.
Marion C. (Peabody, MA)

Meg and Kat
The Lies I Tell is a brilliant, twisted thriller that grabs you from the beginning. Meg, or is it Maggy or Melody, is a con artist trying to right the wrong she experienced as a young woman. She develops a devious plan to right that wrong. Kat, the other woman, a writer, has been following Meg for years, trying to prove the story behind Meg's activities. She suspects Meg is a con artist but needs proof. I enjoyed the refreshing premise behind the novel. If you relished Clark's other books, you would love The Lies I Tell.

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