Henry, the rich happily married and much loved writer of best sellers has a problem that will push his smoothly oiled life off track, a personal drama, his mistress and editor, Betty, is pregnant.
Who is Harry? Where does he come from? How does he come to the decision to kill his mistress?
Sascha Arango’s first book is a slow but twisted thriller, if you scratch the surface Harry has no recorded past but as the pressure begins to build up on Harry an old school friend tracks him down. We know from the outset that Harry does not write the books, the source of his wealth, these are written by his strangely reclusive wife, Martha, Will he risk everything he has and tell his wife?
As the tension builds up around Harry we understand that he is remarkably good at absorbing pressure, he and Highsmiths Tom Ripely are made of similar metal, seemingly unsure at first then decisions taken, acted upon and results accepted. As for his reaction to learning of Betty’s pregnancy:
‘I’ll drive home and tell my wife everything.’ ‘Really?’ Henry saw the astonishment on Betty’s face; he was surprised himself. Why had he said that? Henry wasn’t given to exaggeration; it hadn’t been necessary to say he’d tell Martha everything. ‘What do you mean, everything?’ ‘Everything. I shall quite simply tell her everything. No more lies.’……. ‘And what if she forgives you?’ ‘How could she?’ ‘And the baby?’ ‘I hope it’s a girl.’ Betty hugged Henry and kissed him on the mouth. ‘Henry, you can be a great man.’ Yes, he could be a great man…..It would be the end of all trust and harmony between Martha and him—but it would also be an act of liberation. He would no longer be an unprincipled bastard, no longer have to be so ashamed of himself. It had to be done. Truth before beauty—the rest would sort itself out. He put his arms around Betty’s slender waist. A stone was lying in the grass, big enough and heavy enough to inflict a lethal blow. He had only to bend down to pick it up.
and then his decision, when being followed by his school friend, to stand in the middle of the road at the exit of a bend forcing an accident and knowing which choice the classmate would make, to hit him or to swerve over the cliff.
If you’ve missed Highsmith you could do worse than to read Arango.
First published in German as Die Wahrheit und andere Lügen by Bertelsmann Verlag in 2014
Translated into French by Dominique Autrand as La Vérité et Autres Mensonges and published by Albin Michel in 2015
Translated into English by Imogen Taylor as The Truth and Other Lies and published by Simon and Schuster in 2016