REVIEW: The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango

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Read this book for: psychological thriller, interesting perspective, tight pacing, brilliant plotting

Quick Review: Brilliantly written, intensely plotted and absolutely riveting. An absolute must-read of a thriller.


Henry Hayden is a famous bestselling author, who is generous, considerate, a loving husband, and a kind friend. But Henry’s past is deeply buried, along with an incredible secret – only he and his wife know that she is the one who has written the novels that made him famous. His mistress becomes pregnant, leading him to make a mistake that could bring the entire façade down around him, and even land him in jail. With the police and the past catching up to him, Henry has only his cunning and charm to help weave the lies and truths about what really happened into something that will save him.

THE TRUTH AND OTHER LIES is German screenwriter Sascha Arango’s first novel – and it is utterly brilliant. Built around the premise that every lie must contain a bit of the truth, it is a fascinating and masterful display of how facts can be mixed with a few untruths to create something entirely new.

The novel is built around Henry Hayden, a born liar. He’s hidden twenty-five years of unsavory past and become a famous writer from the work of his wife, carefully maintaining the fiction that he writes the novels. She is more than happy with this arrangement, as she has no desire to be famous and writes for the sake of the stories. Despite Henry’s illegal, deplorable and occasionally downright disturbing actions, you can’t help but cheer for him. Arango has created a main character so multifaceted that it’s almost difficult to side against him, because you get to see his good side, as well as the bad. He – and the other characters – have a gratifying number of layers to sort through.

The layers of contradiction and complexity are built on by the plot. Arango weaves several overlapping storylines around Henry – a police investigation, pressure from the publisher to produce the next novel, his pregnant mistress, his friendship with the local fish-seller, and a childhood victim driven by jealousy to undo him. It’s incredibly satisfying to watch these stories both run on their own and cross to affect each other. While Henry is occasionally the beneficiary of plain good luck, it is convenient but not unbelievable, and adds an extra (and realistic) element of random chance to the plot. This serves to ratchet up the tension and make the story even more exciting.

The most beautiful element of the story, however, is the way that Henry can weave a few lies around a set of facts and come up with something totally different. It’s subtle in some places, and more blatant toward the end, but the facts are twisted so skillfully that even as a reader you start to question your memory of the actual facts of the event. Arango has done this so well that you can watch the facts shift to fit this new presentation, despite the total lack of embellishment and extra or unnecessary detail in the prose. It is tight, clean, and masterfully done – like Henry’s novels, it gives the illusion of having appeared on the page in completed form, with not one word too many.

This is a different kind of thriller – as much a game with the psychology of the reader as the characters – and is one of the more unique and fantastic books I have read in some time. I am absolutely putting this elegant novel on the must-read list here at The Crime Review, and would suggest that you pick up a copy to experience it yourself!

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