JP Delaney's previous book, The Girl Before. I've been eagerly awaiting this newest release - Believe Me.
Delaney starts things off with a great prologue that immediately hooked me - yes, a murder.
Part one introduces us to Claire, an actress who works as a decoy for a law firm, entrapping philandering husbands. "I'm not proud of the stuff I do for Henry. But sometimes I am proud of how well I do it."
Her last job takes a bad turn when the wife is found murdered. The cops suspect the husband, but to prove it, they need more evidence. Claire is approached to go undercover, get close to the husband and see if she can gather enough evidence to prosecute. It sounds like a good, if somewhat iffy, plan. But Claire is a complicated person. She sees the world and her interactions as though written as a screenplay. (I really liked this as a plot device - it was really effective.) She tailors her behaviour and actions as she thinks they would best present. "But then, this isn't lying. This is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances."
There is most definitely something 'off' about Claire - she is the epitome of an unreliable narrator. What is truth and what is imagined is very hard to determine with her. And as part one ends and part two began, I was riveted. Is Claire doing the manipulating or is she the one being controlled? There really are no likable characters in Believe Me, they all seem to have their own hidden agenda.
Charles Baudelaire's book of poetry, Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil) plays a pivotal role in Delaney's plot. Dark stuff. Some scenes may be too graphic for gentle readers.
As I started reading part three of Believe Me, it seemed a wee bit of a stretch. But at this point I was so intrigued by Delaney's storytelling, I didn't give it another thought and kept turning pages. I had no idea where things were going to go. And I was rewarded at the end by a twist that I didn't fully expect. I'm not sure I completely bought it, but believe me, it was a good read! Read an excerpt of Believe Me.
On reading the author's notes at the end of the book, I discovered that Delaney had written a book seventeen years ago about an actress in a undercover sting. It failed to sell, but with the success of The Girl Before, Delaney was able to take that early idea, rewrite it and have it published as Believe Me.