Review

Lie Still

by Julia Heaberlin

Emily Page's husband, Mike, has been offered a plum job as police chief of the wealthy town of Clairmont, Texas. While this means a move from Manhattan, Emily, who is pregnant with her first child, is ready for a change. With any luck, she believes, the move will stop the anonymous person who has continually tormented her, reminding her of the rape she suffered in college.

However, Emily is almost immediately plunged into surreal weirdness encountered when she accepts an invitation from wealthy Caroline Warwick to meet the elite females of Clairmont. Wearing an outfit proclaiming that she is from New York --- a black, body-molding dress and gold flats --- Emily arrives at what appears to be a medieval gatehouse where a troll-like man swings the iron gates open. Caroline lives in a neighborhood of enormous ostentatious mansions, all situated on tiny yards off cobbled streets. Before she enters Caroline's manse, she meets Letty, one of the other invited guests. Letty is overweight, but that doesn't stop her from wearing a red and yellow flowered frock and a huge bee-hive of bleached blond hair. Letty confides immediately that she was fourth runner-up to Miss Texas a while back (she also describes her own birth experience as "like poopin' frozen turkeys").

"Managing to be simultaneously dark, suspenseful and intermittently laugh-out-loud hilarious, LIE STILL is an extremely enjoyable page-turner."

As Letty leads Emily into Caroline's house, she asks if she has filled out an application. Emily is taken aback but then distracted by the sight of 30 or so women listening to a harpist amongst a jungle of houseplants. The women are mostly anorexic, Botoxed and bejeweled, and unabashedly bitchy. Caroline is imperious and chilly. Another woman new to the area, Misty Rich, stands out as a punk version of Tinkerbell; Emily immediately decides that she and Misty will be best friends. During a Bunko game, another guest asks Emily about a mysterious application.

When Emily, spurred on by her fetus-battered bladder, searches for a bathroom, she discovers a strangely decorated bedroom that appears to be a young girl's domain, although no such person lives there --- just an early clue that Caroline is maybe not quite what she appears to be. Emily's very odd visit to Caroline's house is topped off when she gets into her car, and the local doctor, Gretchen Liesel, one of the more ordinary guests, warns her to be careful around the females of Clairmont.

Returning home to the little fixer-upper she and Mike bought, Emily dreads facing the mailbox. Her mail is being forwarded. Could one of her stalker's letters be waiting for her? The previous ones have been filled with obscenities and threats of death, although the most recent envelope held a hint that her harasser is a female…and Emily is sure she knows her identity.

It isn't long before Caroline vanishes. Step by ominous step, Emily is pulled into the town's murky mysteries, seemingly composed of thousands of secrets and lies. Meanwhile, the repercussions of her own past coalesce into concrete form and loom ever nearer.

Managing to be simultaneously dark, suspenseful and intermittently laugh-out-loud hilarious, LIE STILL is an extremely enjoyable page-turner. Emily is a terrific main character, whose sidecracks about her pregnancy woes and the quirky inhabitants of her new town contrast nicely with her increasing terror and pervasive scarring memories, although she sometimes seems way too daring in a don't-go-into-that-haunted-house-Nancy-Drew way. Mysteries twine and intertwine, keeping the reader guessing. Some of the secondary characters (yes, I'm looking at you, Letty) are so over-the-top as to skirt on cartoonish, but they never fail to be entertaining.

Even though the plot lagged a bit at times, author and born storyteller Julia Heaberlin manages to keep our interest from flagging --- to the point where I'm already looking for her previous novel, PLAYING DEAD, and hoping that she is deep into writing her next one.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on July 26, 2013

Lie Still
by Julia Heaberlin