Author: JP Delaney
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: 24 July 2018
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Review by Anelise Farris
Sure, binging a suspenseful television show is okay. But have you ever read a book that you lost a whole afternoon to because you just couldn’t stop reading? And by reading I mean eagerly flipping the pages and having the story play out in your mind like a movie. That’s exactly what happened to me when I sat down with Believe Me by JP Delaney.
Claire Wright is in New York for one thing: to make her big break as an actress. After leaving London due to a “incident,” Claire hopes to start over again in America, to seize a second chance at following her dreams–and maybe, eventually, get a green card, too. Without proper legal status, Claire is forced to find work under the table in order to put a roof over her head while attending acting classes. This leads her to work for a firm of divorce lawyers as a decoy. Everything is going well enough until a client, Stella, is murdered, the husband, Patrick (a scholar of the violent-erotic poetry of Baudelaire), becomes a suspect, and Claire gets hired for her biggest “acting” gig yet–only…is she the tempter or the prey?
Believe Me has a lot going on, but it carries it all remarkably well. Claire, if not a likable character, is at the very least intriguing. Her upbringing as a foster kid, her hysterical disorder diagnoses, and her tendency to treat her entire life like one big play comes together for a fascinating character study. Told in the first-person, you really get into Claire’s mind, and her status as an unreliable narrator has you constantly guessing if her paranoia is warranted or not. Just who can Claire trust becomes the running question. Although Claire has a few relationships, she keeps everyone at a cool distance–that is, until Patrick. She is attracted to the darkness she senses there, and, when she’s pulled into the world of BDSM bordering on necrophelia, you sense that this is far more than an act.
JP Delaney’s ability to weave together such a complex narrative is impressive. And the strongest part of the novel is undoubtedly Claire’s characterization. My only complaint is that the ending feels both rushed and drawn out. It had the effect of sitting in a theater, being pretty sure it’s over, but then the screen darkens, and the movie comes back, and this process repeats a few times. Maybe that was the intended effect in a novel all about performance, but it comes across as clunky in an otherwise polished work.
Verdict: Buy it.
Believe Me is the best kind of psychological thriller–equal parts thoughtful and entertaining–and JP Delaney’s characters leave an impression. You’ll be thinking about this book long after you close it.