Published by Recorded Books, Minotaur Books on May 16th 2006
John Hart creates a literary thriller that is as suspenseful as it is poignant, a riveting murder mystery layered beneath the southern drawl of a humble North Carolina lawyer. When Work Pickens finds his father murdered, the investigation pushes a repressed family history to the surface and he sees his own carefully constructed façade begin to crack.
Work's troubled sister, her combative girlfriend, his gold digging socialite wife, and an unrequited lifelong love join a cast of small town characters that create no shortage of drama in this extraordinary, fast-paced suspense novel.Hart's mastery of prose and plot belie his newcomer status as he explores the true heart of a man. An illuminating anatomy of a murder and the ripple effect it produces within a family and a community, The King of Lies is a stunning debut.
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The King of Lies is author John Hart’s debut into the world of fiction writing. Published in 2006, it opened to mixed reviews which weren’t necessarily predictive of the success the author would achieve with his two consecutive Edgar Award winning books, Down River and The Last Child. The descriptive language is exceptional and is so rich with details one can almost smell the “fear sweat” of Work Pickens, a man who is accused of murdering a father he did not love but did not kill. Even though we know early on in the book that Work did not kill his father Ezra, it is fascinating to watch a case which seems almost unshakable being built against him. Work is not a particularly endearing character and, at times, it seems his only redeeming qualities are these: he loves his sister Jean, he loves dogs, and he finds something magnificent in a man who is repugnant to his shallow, social-climbing wife. Best described as mystery/thriller/suspense, Hart’s book actually supersedes that genre and crosses over into coming of age and family saga.
The King of Lies is read for us by David Chandler who is new to me. His narration is the type that allows the artistry of the author’s words to shine rather than being overshadowed by the narrator’s performance. He has a great voice for a book set in the South without making the mistake some narrators do by trying and failing to produce an authentic Southern accent.
I have to say I found this book spellbinding! It’s one of those where so many things go wrong, it almost reaches the point of improbability. The main players are basically unlikeable, but their inherent weaknesses make them human. Why would a strong woman who runs her own farm keep taking a man back who has hurt her many times? Why would a man who has overcome a background of poverty to become wealthy and successful place so little value on his family? Why would a woman who is accomplished and respected in her field risk her job and her reputation in a personal vendetta? The answer, of course, is because they are human and that is the quality that shines through in Hart’s characters. Readers and listeners who like John Grisham, Pat Conroy, and William Faulkner will enjoy this dark tale of family drama which, surprisingly, has a satisfying ending. I was truly caught off guard when the killer’s identity was revealed, probably because the character I hate the most is rarely the culprit!