Book Title and Author: Believe Me by J.P. Delaney
Publication Date and Publisher: July 24, 2018 by Ballantine Books
Genre: Fiction, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Mystery
Pages: 352 pages
Buy on Amazon.com
Date Read: June 15, 2018 (e-arc)
A struggling actor, a Brit in America without a green card, Claire needs work and money to survive. Then she gets both. But nothing like she expected.
Claire agrees to become a decoy for a firm of divorce lawyers. Hired to entrap straying husbands, she must catch them on tape with their seductive propositions. The rules? Never hit on the mark directly. Make it clear you’re available, but he has to proposition you, not the other way around. The firm is after evidence, not coercion. The innocent have nothing to hide.
Then the game changes.
When the wife of one of Claire’s targets is violently murdered, the cops are sure the husband is to blame. Desperate to catch him before he kills again, they enlist Claire to lure him into a confession.
Claire can do this. She’s brilliant at assuming a voice and an identity. For a woman who’s mastered the art of manipulation, how difficult could it be to tempt a killer into a trap? But who is the decoy . . . and who is the prey?
Believe Me is a dark, sexually charged psychological thriller that kept me engrossed from the moment I picked up the book until I put it down. This was a one sitting read because I couldn’t stop turning pages to see what happened next!
Claire is a young British actress in New York running from a tawdry past back home. She’s an excellent actress attending college on a scholarship but there’s one problem: she has no green card, which means her chances of getting acting jobs are almost nil.
She’s broke and will do almost anything for work, so she puts her gifted acting skills to use pretending to be a high priced hooker for a divorce law firm so she can entrap cheating husbands for their suspicious wives. Claire is excellent at her job until the night she’s hired by Stella Fogler to entrap her husband Patrick, a Columbia University professor well-known for his translations (and obsessions) of 19th-century poet Charles Baudelaire’s book of sexual and controversial poetry, Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil). Patrick doesn’t take the bait but only talks to Claire of Baudelaire’s poetry. When Claire tells his wife he didn’t accept her advances, Stella appears agitated and frightened…that night she’s brutally murdered.
Patrick is the main suspect in his wife’s murder but there’s more: the police believe he’s a serial killer inspired to murder women by Baudelaire’s darkest, most deviant poems about sex and death. Claire is given the role of her life when she’s sent undercover by the police to get a confession from Patrick. She throws herself wholeheartedly into her role, falling deeply into his darkness to lure him into her trap.
I loved the format of how Claire would relay the story at times as if she were narrating it as a play; it gave a lot of impact to her egotistic desire to be the center of attention and showcased not only her acting skills but enhanced her unreliability as a narrator. It made you ask, who really is Claire? The young actress the reader met at the beginning? Or the one who was pulled into the darkness? Regardless, Claire is a wonderful protagonist while being the ultimate unreliable narrator.
The story is quite twisted and throws the reader off balance several times. You definitely have to suspend your belief with this book but Delaney has written a highly entertaining and fast-paced novel! There are so many twists in this book that I was left guessing several times. I thought I had figured things out but I was wrong!
As a literature major who studied Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal as a graduate student I thoroughly enjoyed the premise of the murders revolving around Baudelaire’s poems since he is one of the major influencers of French literature and worldwide modern writings as we know it, going as far as influencing major 20th century writers, music artists from Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, the Stones song Sympathy with the Devil, and much more. His poems about sex, death, and perversion were certainly scandalous in their day and still are a little over the top for some, yet they made for a brilliant plot device for a deviant serial killer to inspire and stage his murders. Kudos to Delaney for the originality of his premise!
While I enjoyed the author’s first book, The Girl Before, Delaney has raised the bar with this latest novel. I highly recommend it for some mind-twisting thrills…who is the real sociopath in this game of deception? Who is the prey? You don’t want to miss this suspenseful novel this summer!
**Thank you NetGalley and Ballantine Books for ARC in exchange for my fair and honest review.**