“Simply Lies” is a stand alone thriller from David Baldacci, who is probably best known for his multiple series. This is tight and yes, self contained, and should satisfy both his fans and readers coming to him for the first time.
Mickey Gibson had her life blown up by a really bad husband. When he left – disappearing most thoroughly – Mickey found herself the single mother to two small children. She had to leave her job as a police detective, and money is a constant juggle now.
Fortunately, she’s found an excellent job: she works for ProEye, tracking and recovering the assets of the extremely wealthy who would prefer not to pay their bills. If it doesn’t have quite the same satisfactions as police work, well, it’s still investigation and Mickey can do most of her work flexibly from a computer in her house, allowing her to also manage her caring responsibilities.
So when a colleague, Arlene Robinson, asks her to do a field trip to inventory the contents of a nearby mansion, Mickey is pretty keen. It’s a little different to her normal work, gets her out in the field, and might carry a nice bonus. Unfortunately, the inventory includes a recently dead body.
As the police investigation swings into action, Mickey finds that Arlene doesn’t exist, and nor does her assignment. It’s clear that she was enticed to the mansion to find the body – but why? Both the police and her employer are unhappy with her for being tricked.
I have previously read and enjoyed a number of Baldacci’s series novels, including A Minute to Midnight. Those series tend to have an over arching mystery personally connected to the protagonist which runs across books, as well as a complete thriller or mystery plot in each novel. Here all of the major story strands are addressed and some degree of resolution offered.
This novel works because of two main factors: an interesting, empathetic protagonist, and a complex, tricky plot.
Mickey is a realistically drawn character. A lot of people will empathise with the way her life was derailed by her husband and kids. The challenges of balancing kids with work, and her need for adult achievement versus the needs of her kids, are strongly depicted. She’s a believable character, well grounded in a realistic vision of life that many readers will recognise.
The one small quibble that I have with “Simply Lies” is the question of why Mickey doesn’t just call the police and get out of the way. Baldacci presents a reason, but I didn’t find it truly believable and couldn’t viscerally get on board with the risk she was taking by getting involved in the investigation and continuing to spar with the mysterious Arlene.
However, once she’s made that decision and taken the first few steps, Baldacci does an excellent job of convincing you that she can’t back away for fear of threats to herself and her kids. Although I found it a stretch for the initial steps, once she was entangled the danger was real and immediate. It helps draw the reader through the story.
This is a post pandemic novel, with passing references to the increased move to work from home, temperature checks, and similar. It’s subtle, placing the novel in time without making the pandemic particularly relevant to the story.
The plot is appropriately tangled. It’s not quite as grounded as the characterisation, but it’s believable none the less. It’s also hard to work out before Baldacci starts spelling it out. In fairness, there aren’t really enough clues to let the reader solve it in advance, though you’ll be able to figure out some of what’s going on as you read.
I enjoyed this novel a great deal. Although there’s nothing wrong with a good series, sometimes it’s nice to pick up a novel and know that you’re going to feel that you know everything important when it ends. “Simply Lies” doesn’t just resolve the thriller plot, it moves Mickey’s life forward in a way most readers will find satisfying.
Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan (2023)
A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading Simply Lies by David Baldacci. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.
I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember, and I love sharing that joy.
I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember, across all genres. There’s not much I won’t at least try. I’ve been an enthusiastic book reviewer for years. I particularly enjoy discovering writers new to me, and sharing good writing with others.
My career has included time spent writing and editing technical documents, but it’s fiction that really moves me. I’ve reviewed for a number of different outlets over the years, and have been a judge in literary competitions.
I’m now raising little bookworms of my own, which brings a whole new kind of joy to sharing books.
More of my reviews can be found on my review blog www.otherdreamsotherlives.home.blog .