Published by Quercus / 385 pages
Opening sentence: “On the day of departure, guests are required to vacate their rooms by noon.”
I started writing this review straight after finishing Believe Me and was convinced it was going to be a 5/5. It is an energetic, original tale that sucked me in from the beginning. But, as I was writing and reflecting on it, more and more questions about the plot popped into my brain and although it was still a great read, I now feel that it’s got one too many flaws for my top marks, let me explain…
I’d seen this book in a lot of pool-side pictures from people’s summer reading lists (mainly on bookstagram). As I’m always in the mood for a great psychological thriller, I popped in my library request. Once it arrived, I thought I’d just read a few pages to get the feel for it – but found I couldn’t stop reading. It definitely ticks the page-turning box!
So, the plot: Claire Wright is a 25-year-old British actress studying at the prestigious Actors Studio in New York that specialises in method acting: ‘Acting isn’t pretending. The clue is in the word. Acting is doing. Being. Becoming.’ To make money while studying she works at a law firm – as their undercover operative: wives pay for her to seduce their husbands, so they can prove they are cheating. Claire is booked to seduce Patrick, a Baudelaire scholar, specifically obsessed with the French poet’s dark book of poetry, Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil). Patrick doesn’t take Claire’s bait, but later that evening his wife is found murdered… As one of the last people to see her alive, Claire is called in for questioning by the police. They then ask her to take part in an undercover operation to see if Patrick is the killer, and this is where it all gets very interesting.
I have to say, it’s written in a very clever, sophisticated way that feeds you certain amounts of information, then snatches them back again, leaving you trusting no-one and eager to keep reading to discover how it’s all going to come together. At one point Claire asks, ‘Why else would you become an actor, if not to edit reality?’ and that is the plot theme in a nutshell. You are never sure what is real and what isn’t. Is Claire acting, or revealing her true feelings? You never know.
Every so often scenes would be written out as if they were pages from a script, this was a nice technique that added to the immersive drama feel of the story as well as working to get you further into Claire’s head: she has a tendency to view all scenarios as a potential scene from the movie of her life.
But overall, this line from the book summarises my feelings: ‘Those are always the most interesting characters: the ones who deceive themselves. Because, sooner or later, the deception always falls apart.’ Yes, our lead characters, Claire and Patrick, are complex and interesting however, when the big plot reveal happens, I was at first blown away, but then started to think about all the plot moments that had led to this point and some required a little too much in the way of suspension of disbelief. This took the shine off slightly for me; the deception fell apart. Despite this though, it still stands out as one of the best psychological thrillers I’ve read in a while! I’d love to know what you thought if you’ve read Believe Me – were you conflicted like me?