Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonald

By Ekta R. Garg

Release date: February 4, 2020

Genre: Mystery

Rated: Bypass it / 2 stars

A young woman wakes up in the hospital after an accident and finds out her mother was murdered. Worse, the police are suspicious of her. Without any memories to support or discredit their theory, though, she’s left with no choice but to conduct her own search for the truth. Author Christina McDonald leads readers through a dismal plot and unbelievable characters in her latest novel Behind Every Lie.

Eva Hansen’s world has spun out of control. She wakes up in the hospital with no memory of how she got there, only to find out she was struck by lightning. Then the news gets worse: her mother, Katherine, was murdered the night Eva was struck. A police officer begins to question her, and Eva realizes the cop wants to know if she could have hurt her mother. She was found not far from her mother’s home around the time the murder occurred, and there’s no other reasonable explanation on hand.

It sounds unreasonable, ridiculous even, but Eva knows she can’t trust her own memories. Years earlier, she was drugged then raped but has no recollection of the incident because of being intoxicated. If she could undergo such a horrific experience, how does she know for sure she had nothing to do with her mother’s death? Especially since she has a history of assaulting her mother?

Her fiancé, Liam, takes her home and tends to her every need, hovering like a helicopter parent. Eva appreciates the way he takes care of her, but she can’t let go of her own suspicion of herself. After the police clear her mother’s home, she goes back and discovers a letter. In it, Katherine hints that Eva might find answers to her questions in England, Katherine’s home country.

As she travels to London, bits and pieces of the night Katherine died begin to come back to Eva. None of the information in her brain makes sense, however, and the facts she uncovers in London confuse her even more. It becomes clear that someone wants to target Eva, but why? Her search brings back more memories from the past as well as more secrets until Eva knows one thing for sure: her life will never be the same again.

Author Christina McDonald describes her native Seattle in detailed, lush prose. Her personal experience of the city and the climate and mood of the Pacific Northwest form the main highlight of the book. Other plot and character choices just don’t measure up.

In an age when the MeToo movement has become a relevant feature of the news cycle, Liam’s dominance over Eva comes across as cliché. He makes decisions for her, doesn’t allow her to speak up for herself, and railroads over her misgivings. Had McDonald given Eva a friend or even acquaintance to point out Liam’s obsessive behavior, readers might have been willing to overlook Eva’s wide-eyed, innocent faith in him. Instead, his actions make him suspicious from the beginning.

McDonald misses the mark, too, with her British characters. Their dialogue sounds more like a caricature of how British people might speak as opposed to adopting the natural cadence and rhythm of their conversations. Every “British-ism” from “blimey” to frequently using the word “rather” appears. The dialogue sticks out as unnatural and becomes more distracting than informative.

The plot, too, flounders as if unsure of what it wants to be. Is this a story about hidden identities? About recovery from rape? About an unexplained murder? About gender identity? All of these elements exist in the novel, and all of them clamor for attention. In the end, none of them become the focal point, and Eva is left to deal with all of it.

While the information on Lichtenberg figures and the Japanese art of kintsugi offer mildly interesting distractions, for the most part this book tries to accomplish too much in its allotted space and does none of it well. I recommend readers Bypass Behind Every Lie.