Believe Me by J P Delaney

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Believe Me by J P Delaney

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A tense thriller with excellent characters and a very twisty plot. A cracking read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: July 2018
Publisher: Quercus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1787472402

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Claire Wright wanted to be an actress, but she was penniless and living in New York. She might have had a scholarship to cover her school fees, but she still had to find the money to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world. There was a solution, although it didn't provide a regular income: she became a decoy for a firm of divorce lawyers. The job was to trap straying husbands and tape them as they propositioned her. There were rules though: she couldn't hit on them directly - they had to proposition her. There was no intention to trap the innocent.

Then there was a change: Claire was employed by Stella Fogler to entrap her husband, Patrick, but she failed. Later that night Stella Fogler was brutally murdered in her hotel suite and the police approached Claire to provoke Patrick into making a confession about this murder and others which they believe that he has committed. The job is brilliantly suited to Claire's acting abilities, but who is deceiving who? Claire is playing the most dangerous role of her life: the police might be tracking her movements, but Claire has fallen in love with Patrick Fogler.

About fifteen years ago I read a book called The Decoy by Tony Strong. It was a reasonably good read but what stayed with me was the nature of the heroine's employment: she was a decoy for a firm of divorce lawyers in New York and her name was Claire Wright. As I began to read, it all came back to me... but then the story seemed to diverge and become stronger. It wasn't until I finished reading Believe Me and read the acknowledgements that I realised that Tony Strong and J P Delaney are the same person and that Believe Me is a reworking of the original book as the author felt that he didn't achieve the full potential of the story the first time around. He's done it this time!

Claire is a strong character: it's unusual for male novelists to be able to write female characters quite this well. She has a background in foster homes and all that involves, or - probably more accurately - doesn't provide. She's needy and craves an audience, but she does have insight into her own motivations and that makes her interesting. I spent a lot of time rooting for her and willing her not to take so many risks. It's a mark of a well-written character when the reader is invested in the characters to the point of exhaustion! Patrick Fogler is well done too. Is he a murderer, or have the police got it all wrong? Claire certainly seems to think so and you come to trust her judgement, well,other than when you wonder if she's telling the truth or just acting.

The plot is excellent but this might be a book to avoid if you're averse to some graphic descriptions of horror. The story uses the poetry of Baudelaire and particularly his Les Fleur du Mal, with some of the poems being quite graphic in their brutality. Delaney uses the novel to explore the poems in some depth and I did find some of this quite unsettling. If you're unworried by this then you will find that the plot is very twisty, but superbly constructed. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

J P Delaney is also Anthony Capella - we enjoyed his The Food of Love. We've also loved another thriller written as J P Delaney: The Girl Before.

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