Lisa Unger

"Sliver of Truth"

(Reviewed by Eleanor Bukowsky JAN 20, 2007)

“I had made some questionable choices.  I had been guilty of putting myself in the path of harm when I could have easily crossed the street.  But sometimes turning away just isn’t an option.”

Sliver of Truth by Lisa Unger

If you haven't read Lisa Unger's first novel, Beautiful Lies, you will likely find her sequel, Sliver of Truth, extremely confusing. The author introduces the story with a violent prologue, and then segues into a chapter that foreshadows the book's dramatic conclusion. Unger throws us into the middle of the action with only tidbits of the back-story to provide a frame of reference for the bewildered reader. It really does not work as a stand-alone mystery, despite what some may claim.

The heroine and narrator is Ridley Jones, who speaks directly to her audience in a breezy and conversational style, as if she were a teenager writing in her diary. Ridley is an overwrought individual who frequently cries and blacks out under stress; the supercharged plot provides plenty of opportunities for her to fall apart and zone out. Ridley is impulsive, gullible, and unworldly. This is strange, since as a freelance writer, she should probably be more savvy and sophisticated.

Ridley originally became famous as a result of an act of heroism, but her fame brought her more punishment than reward. After her photograph appeared in the paper, Ridley informs us, the publicity "led to a series of events that would force me to question virtually everything about my former perfect life...." She finds out that her parents and her beloved Uncle Max Smiley (a name fraught with irony) are frauds and that Max may be a criminal mastermind who is wanted by some very powerful, violent, and determined people. Ridley is chagrined to learn that Max may be alive, since she saw him in his casket and later scattered what she thought were his ashes.

One day, a handsome FBI agent named Dylan Grace accosts Ridley, hoping that she will lead him to Max. Ridley is conflicted about her choices. Should she confide everything that she knows to Dylan? How does she feel about her lover, Jake, who has become increasingly distant lately? Can she reconcile her memories of Max as a kind and compassionate man with the psychotic monster that others have declared him to be? Should she keep moving and investigating on her own, or turn herself over to the authorities? Is there anyone out there she can trust?

In desperation, Ridley does turn to a variety of people for help. She spends a great deal of time on the run, and later in disguise.  Sliver of Truth is fueled with fast-paced dialogue and non-stop action that will seduce adrenaline junkies, but frustrate those who prefer a cohesive narrative with a semblance of logic. Although she is an attractive and courageous woman, Ridley behaves more like a spoiled and flighty child than a mature adult. She endangers herself and others needlessly, insisting that she must confront Max to find out who he really is. How much loss of life is her quest worth? The conclusion is filled with far-fetched twists and turns, although, to her credit, Unger avoids tying up every loose end with a neat bow. Is it possible that another sequel is in the offing?

  • Amazon readers rating: from 39 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from Sliver of Truth at Random House

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"Beautiful Lies"

(Reviewed by Jana L. Perskie MAY 1, 2006)

"I was starting to see my real self through the fissures that had opened in my fantasy life."

Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger

Wow! I predict a wonderful future for Lisa Unger's first novel, Beautiful Lies. I forecast its presence on the NY Times Bestseller List for many a moon. However, unlike a number of successful bestselling novels, this one is well written. It also has a most original plot and a quirky, three dimensional protagonist, as well as realistic minor characters. And, oddly enough, there are no real villains in a story where bad things certainly happen. In the novel her main character, Ridley Jones, says/thinks "there are no heroes or villains in real life, only good and bad choices."

Our gal Ridley is a thirty-something freelance writer who does work for Vanity Fair, New York Magazine, The New Yorker, etc., so she is pretty successful. But rents are high in New York City and even successful freelancers are hard pressed at times to come up with the rent. Ridley does not have this problem. She inherited a healthy sum of money from her uncle, "who wasn't actually an uncle," but her father's best friend. He absolutely adored her. This money cushions her against potential poverty and allows her freedom from financial worries. And "freedom" is a concept of immense importance to her.

Ridley's "fairly uneventful life" is turned upside down one morning...the morning she gains a bit more than her share of 15 minutes of fame. She sees a toddler about to be hit by a speeding truck and leaps into the street to save the boy. Fortuitously...or not, a  photographer is on the scene and Ridley, in full action, appears on the cover of the local papers. The story is picked up by the morning talk shows where she and her family bask in the glory of her brief but bright spotlight.  They have no idea what her moment of fame will bring an envelope in the mail containing a note and an old photograph. The faded photo is of a young woman - who could be Ridley's double, a man and a little girl who resembles Ridley Jones as a little girl. The note includes a phone number and the question, "Are you my daughter?"

Unhinged, our heroine seeks reassurance from her doting father, a successful pediatrician, and her mother, a controlling, uptight woman. They slough off the incident and tell her that some wacko is having a joke at her expense, insisting that they are her birth parents. Still uncertain, she looks for her older brother, a drug addict who lives on the streets, and when she finds him he makes some disturbing comments which fuel her confusion.

Then she meets her handsome and mysterious new neighbor, Jake, a sculptor and a real hottie. Her life will never be the same.

Set in Manhattan's East Village, just a few blocks from where I live, Ms. Unger really brings the neighborhood to life with her wonderful descriptive writing. Beautiful Lies, a taut psychological thriller is 375 pages long and I read it in 2 sittings. It is truly unputdownable! I can't recommend a book more highly than that!

  • Amazon readers rating: from 123 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from Beautiful Lies at Random House

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About the Author:

Lisa UngerLisa Unger was born in Connecticut. Her family lived in Holland and England before they settled in New Jersey. She won awards for her writing in high school and a partial scholarship but still did not believe she could pursue writing as a career. After graduating from New School for Social Research she took a job in the publishing industry. A few years later, while on vacation in Key West she met the man who would be her husband. After a whirlwind romance they sold their respective houses and moved to Florida. But not before sending off her manuscript to five different agents.

She is now a full time writer and still lives in Florida with her husband and daughter. About Us | Subscribe | Review Team | History | ©1998-2014