The Truth and Other Lies

Written by Sascha Arango

Review written by LJ Hurst

Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung


The Truth and Other Lies
Simon and Schuster
RRP: £12.99
Released: June 6th, 2015
Hbk

It does not pay to be a best-selling author these days. Your friends will hate you, your relatives can't be trusted, and your publisher only wants you for the figures on his balance sheet. What is worse is that the police will remain insistent when your significant other goes missing.

Don't think that that's the worst, though. You are a best-selling writer and you know how to devise a devilish plot in which you will never be suspected of having murdered anyone, nor the police ever get on your track. Then you find out that all the time you have been planning a murder, someone else has been planning too. It might be something as simple as a surprise party or an unexpected visit to cheer you up, but whatever it is, it means that you will never sleep comfortably at night again. At least, not until you have started a trail of death. Even your best friend or the jovial grocer in the village might be in the way, and if they are in the way by the time your latest masterpiece has been completed there will be bodies in the water, on the rocks, in the forests, and in garden sheds. You mean never to surrender.

What is worse is that no sooner has one author planned to murder his way out of trouble than they are all doing it. Here, there and everywhere ñ all over Europe. It happens to Sascha Arango's protagonist, Henry Hayden, in his new German bestseller, The Truth And Other Lies, but it has happened in Philip Kerr's 2014 euro-blockbuster Research, and even in the strange glades of Finnish author Pasi Ilmari Jaskelinen's Rabbit Back Literary Society.

Extraordinarily, read all three and though their premises are the same, each novel is different even while so much of their murderous manipulations work out in the same way. Two of them feature unacknowledged ghost writers, while the third supposes that a writing student has been murdered for his notebook; two of them are clearly based on real best-selling authors (not to suggest that the inspiring figures themselves were criminal), while the third (Arango's Henry Hayden and his wife) bears similarities to a case in the art world recently, the subject of the 2014 documentary Big Eyes. The German and the Finnish author both use images of animals attacking their characters and overrunning the homes that should be their strongholds, as if the intervening Baltic Sea is carrying some spirit, while authors German and British both feature bodies in cars as if autobahns, motorways and cliffs are melding in some strange scar tissue.

How odd then that these are all books about individuals and the horrible pain that one individual can inflict on so many. How odd, too, to discover that no one is as simple as you might first take them to be. And that publisher, the one you think is only interested in his balance sheet ñ you never realised that his brains are in the women in the office. Should you have started that affair?

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