Liar (Irene Kelly Series #6)by Jan Burke
Rising star Jan Burke -- whom reviewers have consistently compared to Patricia Cornwell, Sue Grafton, and Robert Parker -- surpasses already high expectations in Liar, her most riveting work to date.Intrepid sleuth/reporter Irene Kelly barely has time to recover from the shock of learning that her estranged aunt has been killed before being blindsided by an even bigger surprise -- she's the number one suspect!With the LAPD biting fast at her heels, Irene searches for her aunt's son, Travis -- a young man who wants nothing to do with Irene or any of the Kelly clan. The seeds of contention sown by family members no longer living are now being reaped by the next generation in ways no one would ever have expected. As deeply buried family skeletons are unearthed, the line between stalker and stalked becomes increasingly blurred, with dangerous consequences for Irene. She casts her lot with Travis, who she believes is the killer's next target, but her efforts to protect him place her squarely in harm's way. Now Irene must dodge not only the arm of the law but also the reach of a killer who appears to want to settle the score of an age-old family grudge. Only by sorting out the truth from the lies in a skein of old family secrets involving bigamy and adultery, alibis and murder, and secrets encrypted in hobo signs will she learn who has begun to kill again -- and why.In Liar, Jan Burke delivers her trademark skillfully woven tale with complex characters, gripping suspense, and heart-stopping action, but this time Irene Kelly must play a deadly game with the highest and most personal stakes ever.
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I don't want to give the impression that my sister, Barbara, is a liar. I will admit that I have long thought that her flair for melodrama has been wasted on her usual audience, a family that has more often called for the hook than begged for an encore. I am the last remaining member of her immediate audience, and time has not deepened my appreciation of her skills.
The most recent performance began late one Friday afternoon at my front door; I was summoned to this makeshift theater by the repeated ringing of the doorbell. Even the overture provided by my barking dogs and yowling cat was unequal to the script she had prepared.
"Irene!" she cried, throwing herself into my arms. "There's a stranger in my grave! "
I disentangled myself and asked a question I've often asked her. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"Someone else has been buried in my grave!
I looked her over. "From the eyebrows down, you appear to be alive. Customarily- "
"Well, of course I'm not dead yet. I mean, someone is already in the grave I'll be buried in when I die," she said.
"I don't know. That's why I came to you for help." She peered over my shoulder. "Why aren't you letting me in? Is the house dirty?"
"No, it's not," I said, then thought of the time I had found her carefully washing out all of the covers on the light fixtures in her home-Barbara would not wait for a burned-out bulb to necessitate the chore. "The house isn't dirty by the standards of human beings with real lives," I amended.
"Frank is too lenient with you about keeping the place neat," she said, pushing past me.
I issued aninvitation to come in as she made her way to the living room. I put the cat in the bedroom and the dogs outside, as much for their benefit as hers. I offered her something to drink, but she politely declined as she took a seat in our grandfather's armchair She often sits in that chair when she visits me. Barbara has always been annoyed that our father passed that family heirloom on to me instead of her. She ran her fingers over the upholstery and frowned. I know that kind of frown. On Barbara, it's the equivalent of a labor pain before the birth of a critical remark.
"You came here to ask for my help?" I said.
The frown became a smile. "You're a reporter-here's something you can investigate. I think this would make a great story--"
"Uh, Barbara, I don't think the Express is going to be all that interested in-"
"Of course it will! You don't want the LA Times to get this story first do you? It's exactly like that case that was inthe headlines awhile back. Cemetery fraud. Illegal burial.Selling the same burial plot to two different people. "
I sighed. "I'm sure it's nothing more than a simple mistake. If you're certain the plot is yours, just go into the cemetery office and show them your receipt."
"Receipt? I don't have a receipt.
"You lost it?"
"No. No one sold it to me, but it's where I'm supposed to be buried.You know that."
I felt the beginnings of a headache. "What cemetery are we talking about, Barbara?"
"Where Mom and Dad are buried."
"Yes. I'm supposed to be buried next to Mama."
"Supposed to be buried next to Mom? Let me guess who's doing the supposing."
"Of course I am! I knew her longer than you did, Irene.'
"Okay, okay. I've always wanted to be buried there, but even having you buried there would be better than some stranger lying next to Mama for all eternity."
"Barbara, I don't own that plot and neither do you. The cemetery can bury whomever they want to in that space. It's not up to us."
"You never have cared about their graves!"
"Oh, for pitysakes--"
"You haven't. I'm the only one who visits them."
I stood up and walked over to the sliding glass door that leads to our backyard, looked out at my husband's carefully tended garden, felt myself relax a little. Trying to stay calm, I said, "For you, it's important to go to the cemetery. I respect that. But for me, it's ... not where Mom and Dad are.'
"You think someone else is buried in their graves?" she asked in alarm.
I turned to look at her. "No. I mean, the cemetery is only where their remains are--that's all that's there, what's left of their bodies.Not who they were or who they still are in my memories of them.'
She shook her head. "Honestly, Irene.As if you can only have it one way or the other. Besides, if you did care about their memories, you'd honor them on important dates."
I felt my spine stiffen. "I know that Tuesday was the anniversary of her death, Barbara. If you think I've forgotten the day she died, you are seriously full of shit."
"But you didn't bring any flowers to the cemetery, or you would have noticed that no one was in my--in the grave next to hers on Tuesday. And if you had returned on the anniversary of her funeral--"
"You think it's healthy to be that obsessed with death and funeral dates?"
"If you had returned today," she went on forcefully, "you would have noticed that between Tuesday and today, someone was buried next to our mother without our permission!"
"Maybe that person's family--whose grief must certainly be fresher than yours-has every right to bury someone there without our permission.'
She folded her hands in her lap and looked down at them.
"Not the praying bit, please, Barbara."
At least she didn't say them aloud. After a moment, she looked...
Meet the Author
Jan Burke is the author of a dozen novels and a collection of short stories. She is the founder of the Crime Lab Project and is a member of the board of the California Forensic Science Institute. She lives in Southern California with her husband and two dogs. Learn more about her at JanBurke.com.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I have never read Jan's books before last month...I then picked up the Messenger and was hooked...I then ordered the first five of her Irene Kelly books and read them...I am an avid reader at least two books a week and find that Jan is a great plotter, her characters are stong....I read all the great suspense and crime books that I can...I support and wish I had interest in one of the book clubs that I order from (I would be rich)...so don't pay attention to any negative that you read about...You will love these books...
Jan Burke can't resist writing. But she's short on editing. This book is about one third longer than it needs to be and suffers greatly. The characters are flimsy, the story overblown and the whole novel overplotted.
This is the first Jan Burke novel that I read and I enjoyed it very much. The characters were interesting and so was the plot. Looking forward to reading more of the Irene Kelly mystery novels.