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December 2, 2013

Felony of the Week: The Past and Other Lies

Fed up with “formulaic” mysteries? Have we got a book for you! Actually, that’s not quite true: The Past and Other Lies does indeed hew to a formula, of sorts, but the elements have a lot more in common with Greek tragedy than with, say, Sue Grafton. While most contemporary mysteries open – or at least middle – with a crime, the dark deed at the heart of The Past and Other Lies, by contrast, arrives only at the very end, the revelation of the poison that has so terribly damaged one generation after another. While author Maggie Joel’s other novel, The Second-Last Woman in England, was all about the “why,” The Past and Other Lies is about what the crime produced.

Or produces. The sense of inevitability, of the extent to which lies and betrayal can beget only betrayal and lies, gives the book a powerfully classical feel: The House of Atreus played out in the grimy flats and shiny, high-rise apartments of 20th-century London.

Adding to the impressions of classicism is the fact that each of these generations – three in all – is represented by a pair of sisters. First up are Jennifer and Charlotte, circa the go-go 1980s. Brittle, never as successful as they think they should be, and much given to “amusing” little practical jokes about suicide.

For their misery, look to their mother, Dierdre, whose memory is all but stuck in the night during the London Blitz when a bomb took out half the street and exposed the grotesque secret that has twisted her relationship with her sister, Caroline.

And finally, there’s Bertha, Dierdre’s mother and sister to Jemima. One of them will commit a crime the courts would recognize. One will commit a crime that will make the other crime inevitable. Where does the blame lie? Where does the “chain of blood” begin? The Past and Other Lies is a classic Felony and Mayhem “novel with mystery elements.”

This week only we are offering up both the paperback and ebook versions at a discount.

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