JP Pomare came to prominence with his scorching debut Call Me Evie. That book was followed up with the fascinating In the Clearing, a thriller based on the true story of an Australian cult called The Family. Which is why expectations would be high for his follow up. Tell Me Lies is not exactly that follow up. It started life as a straight to Audible audiobook and following Pomare’s well deserved success has been retooled as a novel. While it does not come across as an “adaptation”, it does not have the complexity or depth of his previous two novels.
What Tell Me Lies does have though, is an instant, engaging hook – a woman comes up behind a man standing on a train platform and pushes him in front of a moving train. Cut to one month earlier and psychologist Margot is with her newest patient Cormac, a brilliant young man who has been kicked out of university after being caught writing papers for others for money. Already from the opening scene, the relationship between Margot and Cormac is straying beyond the professional as he asks her questions about her life. Not long after this Margot’s life starts to unravel – she feels like she is being followed, then her house is firebombed and she wonders if her patients are either involved or are also being targeted. All of this brings up memories of one of her first cases in which she also strayed across professional boundaries and which resulted in the suicide of a patient.
Tell Me Lies ends up being a by the numbers psychological thriller in which the main character is her own worst enemy and is constantly missing signs as to where the real threat lies. There is plenty of obvious contrivance so that readers should have no such trouble and will pick the major twists well before they are revealed. Pomare is proficient in using the tools of the genre but books like In the Clearing also explored interesting psychological territory of manipulation and trauma. Tell Me Lies has no such ambitions, delivering a moustache twirling villain and a protagonist who brings her own sins, both new and old, down on her family. In the end, Tell Me Lies is a well written distraction which may well have worked better as a spoken narrative. But it will please thriller lovers looking for a quick fix.