Book Review: One More Lie
The murder of a child is a horrible tragedy. When a child is murdered by other children, that’s horrific. These visceral socio-cultural reactions form the backbone of One More Lie, the story of a convicted killer who just wants a normal life after being released from prison.
As the book opens, a young woman now known as “Charlotte” has just been released back into society. As a child, she and a boy named Sean were convicted of the murder of another kid, and they spent their formative years being “rehabilitated.” Now that Charlotte’s therapist believes her to be sufficiently reformed, an ankle monitor-restrained Charlotte is getting her first taste of normal life, ranging from awkward dating to a work routine. In order to give Charlotte a fresh start, she received a new name, and a large fortune in taxpayer money was spent setting up Charlotte and Sean with new lives. The two are supposed to stay away from each other, but Sean tracks down Charlotte and inserts himself back into her life. News of their release has reached the media, and a major firestorm erupts as furious citizens denounce how public monies were lavished upon the “evil pair.”
But is Charlotte evil? As the book unfolds, one scene implies that she might be an irredeemable psychopath bent on revenge, while another suggests that she is simply one of nature’s victims, and yet another passage indicates that she’s so mentally unstable she may not be responsible for her actions. Is she mad, bad, or just exploited by circumstances beyond her control? Even the ending doesn’t completely answer those questions. The narrative jumps back and forth. Some chapters are told through the perspective of Charlotte, other through Sean’s, cycling from the past to the present day. But are Charlotte and Sean reliable narrators? When one of them self-describes as a “good person,” the statement comes across as unconvincing while simultaneously feeling true to the character’s self-image. The trouble with unreliable narrators is that even when we hear their account of what really happened all those years ago, we wonder if what we’re hearing is the truth, or a carefully sanitized, facelifted version of events.
As the novel progresses, Charlotte’s inability to reintegrate with society becomes more pronounced, the details of the crime she and Sean committed become clearer, and a sense of foreboding grows. Something tragic or at least violent is coming– the central characters never seem to be on the path for a truly happy ending– but what will happen and who will remain standing remain questions until the very end.
The largest problem I have with this book is the ending theme. As events start spiraling out of control, reaching a believable if not altogether surprising climax, what lesson is to be learned from the events of this narrative? Are we forever trapped by our past mistakes? Is redemption possible, or is the most we can hope for the ability to limit the damage? What responsibility do consumers of the news media have to view reports skeptically? What dangers do outraged mobs pose for society? Can criminals be rehabilitated, or are some violent offenders doomed to iniquity, even if they’re children? There are a lot of important questions that One More Lie raises, but no answers are posed, and there isn’t much pressure to make the reader think about these issues.
One More Lie is an interesting, albeit often unsettling read, though it grows in resonance the more one thinks about moral and social issues involved, and the novel grows deeper and more complex the more critically the reader takes everything the main characters say.
One More Lie
By Amy Lloyd
Hanover Square Press