The Barnes & Noble Review
When a photographer catches freelance writer Ridley Jones saving a toddler from being struck by a speeding van on a New York City street, she basks in her sudden celebrity. But that one heroic act will set in motion a series of events that will shake her world to its very foundations and put her life in jeopardy…
After she's featured in newspapers and television newscasts all over the city, Ridley's life is turned upside down when she finds a manila envelope on the doorstep of her East Village apartment that contains the faded picture of a man, woman, and baby girl. The accompanying note asks: "Are you my daughter?" When Ridley confronts her parents -- a highly successful doctor and his prim wife -- they reassure her that the package is from some crazy person; but then she meets a handsome sculptor on a similar quest to unlock the secrets of his own murky past, and the two begin to slowly uncover a far-reaching conspiracy involving some of the city's most powerful politicians, humanitarians -- and criminals.
Beautiful Lies is essentially the story of a woman's attempt to understand and piece together the countless -- and mind-boggling -- untruths that once made up the foundation of her seemingly idyllic life. Comparable to psychological thrillers like Jeff Abbott's Panic and Dean Koontz's Velocity, Unger's narrative will blow readers away with its unadulterated intimacy and surprising intensity. Featuring realistically drawn and powerfully compelling characters, a plot with more twists than a bag of pretzels, and an ending that is as explosive as it is jaw-dropping, Beautiful Lies is a blockbuster of a debut not to be missed. Highly recommended. Paul Goat Allen
Unger's well-crafted, suspenseful debut fiction, in which a bright, resourceful young woman finds her everyday world turned upside down in true Harlan Coben-thriller fashion, is done no favors by this off-kilter audio rendition. The main problem is that reader Lamia sounds a decade younger than the novel's narrator, Ridley Jones. As the book's heroine drifts into and out of jeopardy, fearlessly searching for the truth about her birth and parentage while defying powerful adversaries determined to keep a particularly evil secret, the mood should be noir. Lamia's sound is strictly YA, more girly than gritty. Her performance isn't one note; she makes all the right emotional choices. But she is not vocally versatile enough to do justice to the novel's cast of characters. Asking her to convey the audio image of a rotund, sinister lawyer issuing dire threats, to take one example, is a little like hiring Paris Hilton to stand in for Orson Welles. Not her fault, exactly, if she falls short of the mark. Simultaneous release with the Crown hardcover (Reviews, Jan. 2). (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
For her efforts, Good Samaritan Ridley Jones receives a mystifying package that forces her to rethink her whole life-and then flee it. A big debut; lots of foreign rights have been sold, and there's a ten-city tour. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
A cozy, personable debut about a young New York City journalist who inadvertently begins to unravel her own identity. Ridley Jones's 15 minutes of fame occur when she leaves her East Village apartment one morning to catch a cab and saves a toddler from being hit by a van. Ridley's face is plastered over the news for days, thrilling her New Jersey parents and former fiance Zack, whom she dumped in order to become her own person. Ridley's privacy is further compromised when she receives notes from someone claiming to be her long-lost daughter. Simultaneously, an attractive, rather nosy new neighbor in her building, Jake, turns out to be a PI with all kinds of scary baggage and a bullet scar on his shoulder. He helps connect Ridley's mysterious messages to the case of a missing girl, Jessie Stone, who disappeared in 1972 after the murder of her mother (probably by her boyfriend). Unger effectively builds suspicions around the men in Ridley's life: unknown, duplicitous Jake, who seems to follow her everywhere; obtuse and overprotective Zack, a pediatrician like her father; bitter, damaged older brother Ace, an itinerant drug user estranged from the family who drops hints of their parents' perfidy without evidence; and even Ridley's beloved, dead Uncle Max, who overcame an abusive childhood to make his fortune in real estate and establish a humanitarian agency that shelters mothers with children frightened for their safety. Ridley's parents also come under her scrutiny, since her father served as pediatrician to Jessie as well as to other missing children. The story is told from the perspective of Ridley, who is proud and occasionally spooked to live on her own in the big city. Cleverlyhandled suspense for chick-lit readers. $150,000 ad/promo
From the Publisher
“A tightly written thriller…. The action is depicted with satisfying breathlessness.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Suspenseful, sensitive, sexy, subtle.” —Lee Child
“A high-wire balance of tension and resolution.” —The Baltimore Sun
“This mystery's surprising twists will make your jaw drop.” —Cosmopolitan
“Perfect pitch, characters we can recognize as versions of ourselves. . . . Lip-smacking good.” —Chicago Tribune
Read an Excerpt
Beautiful Lies A Novel
By Lisa Unger
Shaye Areheart Books Copyright © 2006 Lisa Unger
All right reserved.
Chapter One It's dark in that awful way that allows you to make out objects but not the black spaces behind them. My breathing comes ragged from exertion and fear. The only person I trust in the world lies on the floor beside me. I lean into him and hear that he's still breathing but it's shallow and hard won. He's hurt, I know. But I can't see how badly. I whisper his name in his ear but he doesn't respond. I feel his body but there's no blood that I can tell. The sound of his body hitting the floor minutes before was the worst thing I've ever heard.
I feel the floor around him, looking for his gun. After a few seconds I feel the cool metal beneath my fingertips and I almost weep with relief. But there's no time for that now.
I can hear the rain falling outside the burned-out building, its loud, heavy drops smacking on canvas. It's falling inside, too, trickling in through gaping holes in the roof down through floors of rotted wood and broken staircases. He moves and issues a low groan. I hear him say my name and I lean in close to him again.
"It's okay. We're going to be okay," I tell him, even though I don't have any reason to believe this is true. Somewhere outside or up above us a man I thought I loved, along with other men whom I couldn't identify,are trying to kill us, to protect an awful truth that I've discovered. I am hurt myself, in so much pain that I might pass out if I didn't know it meant dying here in this condemned building on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. There's something embedded in my right thigh. It's possibly a bullet, or a large spike of wood, or maybe a nail. It's so dark I can just barely see the large hole in my jeans, and the denim is black with my blood. I'm dizzy, the world tilting, but I'm holding on.
I hear them up above us now, see the beams of their flashlights crossing in the dark through the holes in the floors. I try to control my breathing, which to my own ears sounds as loud as an oncoming train. I hear one of the men say to the others, "I think they fell through. They're on the bottom." There was no answer but I can hear them making their way down over creaking wood.
He stirs. "They're coming," he says, his voice little more than a rasp. "Get out of here, Ridley."
I don't answer him. We both know I'm not leaving. I pull at him and he tries to get up, but the pain registers on his face louder than the scream I know he suppressed to protect us for a few minutes more. If we're not walking out of here together, we're not walking out at all. I drag him, even though I know I shouldn't be moving him, over behind an old moldy couch that lies on its back by the wall. It's not far but I can see his face white and gritted in terrible pain. As I move him, he loses consciousness again and in an instant feels fifty pounds heavier. But I've seen all four of his limbs move and that's something. I realize that I'm praying as I pull him, my leg on fire, my strength waning. Please God, please God, please God, over and over again like a mantra.
The way the couch is lying, it forms a crawl space against the wall just big enough for the two of us. I pull him in there and lie on my belly beside him. I pull an old crate over toward the edge of the couch and look through the wooden slats. They're closer now and I'm sure they've heard us because they've stopped talking and turned their flashlights off. I hold the gun in both hands and wait. I've never fired a gun before and I don't know how many bullets are left in this one. I think we're going to die here.
"Ridley, please, don't do this." The voice echoes in the dark and comes from up above me. "We can work this out."
I don't answer. I know it's a trick. Nothing about this can be worked out now; we're all too far gone. There have been plenty of chances to close my eyes and go back to the sleep of my life as it was, but I haven't taken any of them. Do I wish now that I had? It's hard to answer that question, as the wraiths move closer.
"Six," he whispers.
"You have six bullets left."
Excerpted from Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger Copyright © 2006 by Lisa Unger. Excerpted by permission.
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