August 13, 2018

Book Review: Believe Me by J.P. Delaney


Source: Vine

A struggling actor, a Brit in America without a green card, Claire needs work and money to survive. Then she gets both. But nothing like she expected.

Claire agrees to become a decoy for a firm of divorce lawyers. Hired to entrap straying husbands, she must catch them on tape with their seductive propositions.

The rules? Never hit on the mark directly. Make it clear you’re available, but he has to proposition you, not the other way around. The firm is after evidence, not coercion. The innocent have nothing to hide.

Then the game changes.

When the wife of one of Claire’s targets is violently murdered, the cops are sure the husband is to blame. Desperate to catch him before he kills again, they enlist Claire to lure him into a confession.

Claire can do this. She’s brilliant at assuming a voice and an identity. For a woman who’s mastered the art of manipulation, how difficult could it be to tempt a killer into a trap?

But who is the decoy . . . and who is the prey?

I have been reading so many psychological thrillers lately that I’ve started seeing some of the same tropes repeated (you have no idea how many times twins ends up being the twist) and nothing seems fresh anymore. It was going to take quite some doing to surprise me – and believe it or not, Believe Me managed to do just that. (Spoiler alert - No twins here!)

I wasn’t planning on reading this book in one sitting, but from the first page, I was completely immersed and had to drop everything to continue until the end.  I thought the story was going one way, only for it to reverse, then turn upside down and sideways until I didn’t know what to think – except for one thing, which is to hang on for the ride. And a wild ride it is. I guarantee you are going to say WTF?! at least a couple times (in a good way) and then thumb back towards prior chapters/scenes just to realize, yep, it actually went there.

Let’s talk about style for a second – at times the narrative was told in script format (like a play or movie script) which I thought at first was just a gimmick because Claire is a struggling actress. But since I’m mentioning it here, you know it isn’t a throwaway detail. 

Now let’s talk about substance. I loved how Delaney wove in Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil and Baudelaire’s personal life as an integral part of how the story unfolds. This touch elevated Believe Me into another realm and made me want to revisit Baudelaire’s poems and read more about his life. Someone should stage My Heart Laid Bare – please!!!

I have more memories than if I had lived a thousand years.
An old desk full of dead ideas
Is not more full of secrets than my aching head…

It’s a necropolis; a grave in which the dead-
Those bodies I once loved – are tumbled willy-nilly,
Prodded and nudged incessantly
By morbid reveries, like worms.
Charles Baudelaire's Grave
Montparnasse Cemetery
Paris

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