The Truth and Other Lies
A novel by Sascha Arango
Book review by Jules Brenner
Atria Books, released 6/23/15, 256 pp., $24.99
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From the time I first saw this title to the page on which I understood its meaning in a specific sense, my admiration took a double take. The title, which refers to a casual psycho killer of deceptive genius and twisted, narcissistic personality is brilliant.

Henry Hayden's baring of an amoral code of conduct defies sympathy but nevertheless commands it. How long that appeal will last for any particular reader, however, is likely to vary widely. The red line for how much selfless truth-telling a person can stand is a variable quality.

Hayden is a best-selling author of a string of books that has made him a star in the publishing firmament. His photos make him easily recognizable by strangers who will hound him for an autograph at first sight and, he's perfectly okay with the occasional inconvenience. A model of compassion and friendly conduct. But, as his narrative reveals the bizarre truth behind the lies, the curtain of innocence turns appealing to appalling and modesty to matter-of-fact madness.

This begins with his casual revelation that he hasn't written a word in any of the books that has made him famous worldwide... and rich! The books have been written by Martha, his wife.

Here's where plausibility becomes severely strained. Has there ever been a spouse (of either gender) who combines a genius for writing best seller lit and so abhores the possibility of fame and attention that taking credit for the work is repugnant? Who happily turns that part of the creative and promotional process to a mate? Who just happens to thrive on all the success and attention that success brings.

As the foundation for this story of fakery and phoniness and assumption of lies being accepted everlastingly, Henry learns that everything has a defect. There's a colony of termites in the superstructure.

Henry's defect is that Betty, his editor and lover, has become pregnant with, presumably, his child. (Yes, Martha makes no demands on him even in this sphere of human activity).

This leads to an action Henry must take in order to forestall the dissolution of his whole fake identity and world.

As though to mirror the fakery, Arango isn't above shifting the realism of the story by pulling the wool over the reader's eyes. An example of this occurs on page 207. It begins... "The phone woke Henry from his afternoon nap. It was Fasch calling from his sickbed."

Clearly, Henry's at home and Fasch, a stalker from Henry's past, is in a hospital setting. But, then, Arango writes: "After Henry had sat down at his bedside..." Presumably Henry's bed, in his own apartment, not Fasch's. But we can't take that too seriously because a couple of pages later, "Henry rang for the nurse," which clearly puts him in Fasch's room. But, how did he get there?

Mysteries within mysteries, and it could all be rather sordid, but Henry's so smooth a story teller there isn't a dry eye in the house as one coverup leads to another. Fabulously well wrought is Henry's style, with which he intrigues us by taking advantage of his taste for sardonic irony and his understanding of police procedure and its weaknesses -- aptitudes that allow him strategic advantage. What comes out of all this admitted guilt and weirdness is a tale that's so absorbing you won't put it down for anything other than absolute need.

Let's see who you'll be rooting for at the end.

"The Truth and Other Lies" is my favorite for the year, if not the last two. And, Arango, a prominent German screenwriter, is a find!

If you don't yet own The Truth and Other Lies and would like to purchase it (usually at a sizable discount), click here.