Claire Wright is a British actor living and hoping to improve her craft in the town that never sleeps, New York. Despite Claire’s best efforts to impress her agent and acting school teacher, the job offers aren’t exactly rolling in. Claire well knows that it would only take a few minutes effort from any casting director checking up on her to discover that there’s some dubious history from the set of a previous production filmed back in the U.K.
Green card issues require that Claire take on work that won’t raise flags with immigration, so it is with this in mind that she accepts some casual work for a lawyer, working stings for wives who want to know if their husbands are the type to stray. Tasked to check up on the writer husband of one very jittery wife, Claire is shocked to be accused of the wife’s murder later that same day. Its more unsettling that this one job was the exception to the rule, as the husband Patrick had not taken Claire up on her carefully crafted offer for an extra marital rendezvous. When the local police ask Claire to catch a killer, it’s the sting acting role of a lifetime that she is certain she will be able to totally immerse herself in.
Yikes. Be prepared for the push and pull as your suspicions settle on one person and then are shunted briskly away to lay uneasily on the head of another. Rinse and repeat.
There’s a lot to like in this novel and there’s also a lot that simply doesn’t work. It’s clever or very clumsy in parts and there’s no continuity with either intent. Claire’s character is suitably complex and we’re all for seeing female characters showing their dark sides, just as male characters have been able to display for the last billion years in fiction. As you progress through BELIEVE ME you are never quite sure if you are dealing with an unreliable narrator – and this can brand a thriller as a one trick pony with there being so many novels about now of this type – or whether this is someone who makes a practice of making monumentally unwise decisions.
Does the reader become invested in the outcome of BELIEVE ME? Not really. We know where we are headed. Second novels following blockbuster debuts can have a terrific weight of expectation placed on them well before release and BELIEVE ME was no exception. The sub culture of sexual fetishes is in interesting inclusion, as is the plot device of selecting certain works of French poet Charles Baudelaire to illustrate the motivations of a killer. BELIEVE ME fires well straight out of the gates but credibility is stretched to breaking point as soon as Claire is asked to contribute her acting talents to the investigation.
BELIEVE ME waxes and wanes between holding your interest and pushing you off to do other things when it gets a bit tedious. You do need to fully invest in Claire and her nebulous reasonings in order to finish this book. Modern relationships are hideously complicated and hats off to BELIEVE ME, as this thriller takes that certainty to a whole new level of dangerous complexity.