A decade ago, Kat Roberts was an L.A. Times rookie, part of a team working on a high-profile news story about a predatory high school principal. In hopes of jump-starting her career, Kat decided to conduct her own secret side investigation and wow her new boss with the results. But things went terribly wrong, and to this day, she blames the person who sparked her interest in the side story: a young woman named Meg.
Fifteen years ago, Ron Ashton rendered a teenaged Meg Williams homeless. Her mother fell in love with the successful real estate developer and was grateful when he agreed to help refinance their beloved home. Alas, he lied about the documentation as well as about his intentions; Meg’s mom died not long after, leaving her daughter alone to deal with unresolved grief and sudden housing insecurity.
But an incandescently angry Meg determinedly clawed her way to solvency one con job at a time, with impeccably thorough research as her secret weapon and terrible men as her favored targets. She’s become very, very good at conning people: As she asserts in the opening pages of Julie Clark’s intricate and engrossing The Lies I Tell, “By the time you’re saying nice to meet you, I’ve already known you for months. Does this worry you? It should.”
In present-day Los Angeles, a Google alert lets Kat know that Meg’s returned to town, right in the middle of Ashton’s run for state senate. A strong researcher herself, Kat has some idea of Meg’s backstory, plus her current false identity as a real estate agent. Kat resolves to use that information to launch a con of her own: She’ll pose as a potential buyer, befriend Meg and twist trust into revenge. Or will she?
It’s an exciting premise, bolstered by intriguingly detailed descriptions of Meg’s various ruses, compelling character growth and lots of slow-building tension via complex manipulation. Clark, author of New York Times bestseller The Last Flight, has yet again crafted a fascinating pair of women who wrestle with trauma, sexism, identity and whether it’s ever okay to do bad things for good reasons.