The Truth and Other Lies, by Sascha Arango, billed itself on Netgalley as perfect for readers who loved The Dinner. And while I didn't love The Dinner, I was fascinated by it, so I wanted to read this, at the very least to try to figure out how I felt about this kind of book.
And it turns out that the comparison is spot on in a lot of ways, in spite of the many differences in the books. The book centers on Henry, who is a bestselling author of thrillers and has a perfectly nice life. He's got a lovely house and a great dog and a wife he really loves. He's also got a mistress who is pregnant and works for his publisher, and some secrets in his past.
I wouldn't say this book is as tightly crafted as The Dinner. That's not the point of comparison. The Truth and Other Lies follows Henry and a few of the people in his orbit--his mistress, her boss (the publisher) and his secretary; Henry's best friend, who sells fish in the village; a man who's been following Henry for years. Each of them has their own little piece of the story of what's going on, but we have the whole thing.
This is essentially a "will he get away with it" story. It plays out very loose, with a lot of personal situations (the secretary is in love with the publisher; the stalker was bullied as a child) that are touched on. But the part you really care about, the place you're invested in this book, is Henry. This is one of those stories where you kind of want the guy to get away with his secrets, even though he's clearly a bad person, just because you're watching the intricate structure that he's building so precariously, and you kind of want it to succeed, even though it's a monument of badness.
Also, Henry is affable. I think that's what I liked best about this book--Henry isn't evil. He isn't even indifferent to other people. He keeps saying to himself that he's going to do the right thing, and then doing the expedient, wrong thing instead, and justifying it to himself. This is the kind of villain I can--not sympathize with, but at least imagine becoming. If I was going to be evil, I would be Henry evil. Which is sad, but is also intriguing because so rarely can you see yourself in the bad guy, you know? He's not evil, exactly; he's weak and indifferent, on a monumental scale.
The book gets off track in a few places, and it's occurred to me to wonder how much of this would seem run of the mill in Germany, where the book was originally published. But I'm pretty sure the point where Henry nearly goes off the rails searching for the marten that's living in his walls would seem a little out of place in any country.
Still, I wanted very much to know how things ended. And I was even a little fond of some of the characters (sadly, some of them were not the ones who survived). An interesting book; if a low-key European psychological thriller sounds like your kind of book, this one's probably worth your time.