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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Truth and Other Lies

Sascha Arango

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To purchase The Truth and Other Lies

Title: The Truth and Other Lies
Author: Sascha Arango
Genre: Novel
Written: 2014 (Eng. 2015)
Length: 241 pages
Original in: German
Availability: The Truth and Other Lies - US
The Truth and Other Lies - UK
The Truth and Other Lies - Canada
The Truth and Other Lies - India
La vérité et autres mensonges - France
Die Wahrheit und andere Lügen - Deutschland
La verità e altre bugie - Italia
La verdad y otras mentiras - España
  • German title: Die Wahrheit und andere Lügen
  • Translated by Imogen Taylor

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Our Assessment:

B : layers it on a bit thick, but reasonably entertaining

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 21/5/2015 Laura Wilson
The NY Times Book Rev. . 5/7/2015 Joseph Finder
Sydney Morning Herald . 16/5/2015 Sue Turnbull

  From the Reviews:
  • "Set in a nondescript coastal town, the story feels oddly unanchored without a specific location, but bears comparison to Patricia Highsmith -- the book fairly twangs with paranoia, sardonic humour and razor-sharp observation." - Laura Wilson, The Guardian

  • "What keeps us turning the pages is the cunning plot, but in the end, The Truth and Other Lies feels hollow at the center, like its protagonist. (...) This is ultimately a crime novel about crime novels, a book about itself, and the reader finishes it complicit with the conceit, having kept reading to the end only to find out what happens next." - Joseph Finder, The New York Times Book Review

  • "The Truth and Other Lies is indeed an admirable accomplishment, and vastly entertaining to boot." - Sue Turnbull, Sydney Morning Herald

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The main character in The Truth and Other Lies is the incredibly successful fourty-four-year-old author Henry Hayden, who burst on the scene with the thriller Frank Ellis less than a decade earlier; that book has: "sold ten million copies worldwide", and he hasn't looked back since. Few authors manage to hit it this big -- and fewer still manage the way Henry did: without writing a word.
       On the eve of his thirty-sixth birthday Henry had: "no apartment of his own, no fixed income, and no idea what to do next in life" -- none of which really troubled him: he was used to the carefree life, long used to -- and expert at -- taking everything as it came. That night he hooked up with a woman for yet another one-night stand -- and then discovered a manuscript under her bed. He immediately realized how good it was, and made new plans; instead of taking off he stuck around and made himself useful (which he had a knack for). Martha -- so her name -- was a true writer, obsessed with the act itself, but indifferent to getting published or being read; "I just want to write", she tells him. Henry convinces her to let him submit the manuscript to publishers -- and she's the one who insists that no one ever know she is the one who actually wrote this (or then any later) book, it should all be done in Henry's name.
       It's an arrangement that suits them both well. They're a happy couple, with Henry taking care of their everyday needs -- and playing the role of bestselling author to the hilt -- and Martha happily working away on book after successful book.
       Henry likes to live large, and Henry can't resist some of the side-benefits that come with fame. But as the novel opens he is faced with a problem: he's been carrying on with Betty -- now the editor in chief at the publishing house that publishes 'his' books -- for a while, and Betty is now pregnant. That's not a secret she wants or will be able to keep, so it looks like his cushy arrangement with wife Martha is about to be shattered.
       Things are shattered, but not quite as expected or planned. Henry is both impulsive and quick on his feet, a combination that both leads to and also helps him avoid catastrophe. So for example he decides the best thing is to get Betty permanently out of the way -- before she can destroy his marriage, and with it his fake career. That really goes wrong -- but Henry manages to make the best out of the bad situations that then follow in the cascade of consequences.
       Henry is something of a mystery-man. He lost his parents when he was young, and grew up in orphanages -- as long as they could or would hold him -- where he terrorized the other kids. But between the ages of about eleven and thirty-six there's barely a trace of him: "a gaping hole of almost twenty-five years". An astounding feat in and of itself:

Even Dr.Mengele, who had to change his hiding palce several times over, left clues and kept a diary. Keeping silent goes against human nature, it said at the beginning of Frank Ellis.
       Henry's secrets and situation would be enough for a thriller, but Arango opts to add several complicating layers, beginning with a childhood acquaintance who is obsessed with Henry -- he has amassed a huge dossier on him -- and wants to uncover his secrets. Then there's the local fishmonger, Obradin, with a troubled, violent Serbian past -- whom Henry treats very well and who in turn is willing to help his good friend out, no questions asked. Then there's that nearly but not quite finished manuscript, the latest Henry/Martha book that his publisher is desperate to get his hands on -- the publisher whose cancer has reached the terminal stage, and who now wants to get married before it is too late.
       A clever touch is making Henry a very generous soul: yes, he does some very nasty things, but almost always at at least some remove. And he offers support left and right, even to those clearly undeserving -- like his stalker. Henry is the rare amoral protagonist equally willing to lend a helping hand and do some good without necessarily expecting anything in return as he is to do something that is simply cruel. But he does try to maneuver things so as to effect the best possible outcome for him -- and does so skillfully.
       It's a pretty elaborate and intricate plot -- no wonder the police are confused. Amusingly, the intricacy isn't (solely) the result of Henry's (limited) planning: he's as surprised as anyone by half of the twists, from the first person whose death he causes to the appearance of his stalker. Ultimately, it feels like considerably too much is layered on, Arango's TV-screenwriting background perhaps too evident in the additional cliffhanger twists that seem to come up right before every commercial break .....
       The various secrets, and the (shifting) motives of the various characters make for a (constantly) twisting thriller that's a decent read but is ultimately also rather thin. The Truth and Other Lies is entertaining enough, but tries too hard to do too much, without quite enough satisfying payoffs.

- M.A.Orthofer, 6 December 2015

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The Truth and Other Lies: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       German screenwriter Sascha Arango was born in 1959.

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© 2015-2021 the complete review

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