James Thane's Reviews > The King of Lies

The King of Lies by John Hart
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Apr 15, 11

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bookshelves: suspense
Read in April, 2011

The King of Lies is the first book from John Hart, published three years before The Last Child, the book for which he won the Edgar Award for Best Novel. Jackson Workman Pickens ("Work") is a North Carolina lawyer who's labored his entire life in the shadow of his domineering father, Ezra, also a lawyer. Work is also trapped in a marriage to a cold, scheming, social climbing witch. Work hates being a lawyer and can't stand his wife, but he's been living the lie that is his life for so long that he apparently doesn't know what else to do.

The book opens eighteen months after the accidental death of Work's mother. On that same night his father disappeared and was never seen again until his body is now discovered in an abandoned shopping mall. Work's principal affection is for his sister, Jean, who was so psychologically damaged by their father that she has twice attempted suicide. Jean ran from the house on the night of their mother's death. It's virtually certain that Ezra was shot with the gun that he kept in the house, and Work believes that Jean, who blamed Ezra for her mother's death, may well have killed him. Work launches his own investigation in an attempt to shield Jean. But then Ezra's will reveals that Work is in line to inherit a considerable fortune and Work suddenly becomes the prime suspect in the murder.

The book is well written; it moves swiftly and has a lot of unexpected twists and turns. It's a very good debut novel, although it's not in the same category as The Last Child. My problem with the book was that Work, the main protagonist, was so unsympathetic. One of the other characters describes him as a "pussy," and unfortunately, it's a very apt description.

Work is a man who's allowed himself to be dominated his whole life, first by his father and then by his wife. From about the second chapter, I found myself waiting for the guy to man up and assert himself. But by the time he finally makes an effort in that direction, I was so soured on him that I really found it hard to care what happened to him.

Others, of course, may feel differently and that concern aside, this is a good book. Perhaps my problem here is that I read The Last Child before I read this book and as a result my expectations may have been too high. John Hart is a very good writer; I've enjoyed both of his other books, and my reservations about this one aside, I will eagerly look forward to his fourth.
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Brandon I had a lot of the same problems you did. The character of "Work" kept me from really enjoying the novel overall.

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