King of Lies by John Hart

John Hart’s debut in the world of fiction is that most engrossing of rarities, a well-plotted mystery novel that is written in a beautifully poetic style…The King of Lies will mark the beginning of a long and stellar career. – Mark Childress, author of Crazy in Alabama

People apparently loved this book. There are three pages of positive reviews excerpted in the front of the book. That’s surely a good sign, right?

Personally, I feel sorta ho-hum about this book.

Jackson Workman Pickens, or ‘Work’ is a relatively successful lawyer in a Southern town. He’s unhappily married to Barbara.  He has a mentally ill sister, Jean. He’s generally well-liked. Then, one day, his famously successful lawyer father, Ezra, (who has been missing for eighteen months) turns up in the closet of a dilapidated mall- two bullet holes in his head. Naturally, Work is a suspect, but because he knows the system he is able to stay (mostly) one step ahead of the detective who is, convinced he is the murderer, hot on his trail.

In all fairness to Hart, I do think he is trying to do more with The King of Lies than unravel a mystery. Work is a complex guy: he’s genuinely decent and tries to do the right thing, even though he’s emotionally reticent. He’s been in love with another woman since he was 12, but he’s never been able to say the words to her…and he married someone else. He is estranged from his sister, but he’s fiercely protective of her. His relationship with his father was acrimonious and the whole Pickens family is plagued by secrets.

But for me- the book moved too slowly. I mean, it wasn’t a page turner in the sense that I couldn’t wait to know what was going to happen next. It was well-written (although he did use some of the same figurative language more than once…and that always bugs me) and Work was a good guy, but certain things niggled. Jean: barely coherent in one section, full of self-knowledge and insight by book’s end.

If you’re a fast and true mystery fan, you could certainly do worse than The King of Lies.

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