Sacrament of Lies

Sacrament of Lies

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by Elizabeth Dewberry
     
 

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When Grayson Guillory's mother died, she helped her father get rid of the vodka and pill bottles next to the body. It wouldn't do for Louisiana's governor to have a wife who committed suicide after years of mental illness-especially just as he's contemplating the presidency. Grayson's husband-her father's speechwriter-helps keep the story quiet, and the family doctor… See more details below

Overview

When Grayson Guillory's mother died, she helped her father get rid of the vodka and pill bottles next to the body. It wouldn't do for Louisiana's governor to have a wife who committed suicide after years of mental illness-especially just as he's contemplating the presidency. Grayson's husband-her father's speechwriter-helps keep the story quiet, and the family doctor makes sure the official cause of death will be a heart attack. But Grayson has a problem. When she thought she was helping her father cover up a suicide, she might actually have been covering up a murder. Because Grayson's mother left behind a videotape in which she claims her life is in danger. Of course, Grayson's mother did suffer from paranoid delusions. And maybe Grayson does too: manic depression is a highly hereditary illness. But just because she's paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get her...

Editorial Reviews

Richard Ford
...a neat, fast-paced, immensely readable and smart murder mystery...
Publishers Weekly
A deftly plotted literary thriller that will hold the reader's attention on a tight leash until the very end, this psychological mystery set in contemporary New Orleans crackles with tension. The plot centers on Grayson Guillory, the daughter of a recently widowed (and recently remarried) influential Louisiana governor up for reelection. Grayson, distraught over her mother's recent death, finds a strange memento that seems to indicate that Mrs. Guillory's passing may not have been a simple suicide. Suddenly everyone and everything falls under suspicion her friends, her fianc , even her own father. Grayson's world begins to slowly tumble around her, each glance, each errant word ringing with her newfound knowledge and the reader can't help tumbling with her. The ones she loves most have betrayed her, and as Grayson begins to uncover the truth, she believes her investigation has put her own life in danger or has it? Has Grayson uncovered an unthinkable evil that now threatens to devour her as well or, shaken by her loss, is she traveling down the same dark path to madness as her notoriously unbalanced mother? The tension between the two possibilities is gripping, and Dewberry (Break the Heart of Me; Many Things Have Happened Since He Died) produces a riveting page-turner in which the line between truth and madness is thin as razor wire and always in doubt. Mystery-lovers and aesthetes alike will take pleasure in this well-paced novel that manages to be both taut with suspense and fluidly lyrical. The true mystery here is not whodunit, but if anything has been done at all. (Feb.) Forecast: A flowery jacket sends the wrong message, but blurbs from Richard Ford, Ann Patchett and Tim Gautreaux should help this Hitchcockian gem find the readership it deserves. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In this compelling page-turner, set in New Orleans and framed by two Mardi Gras seasons, Dewberry (Break the Heart of Me) shows that some families need look no further than their own homes for murder, mayhem, and madness. Grayson Guillory, daughter of the governor of Louisiana, suspects her father of killing her mother and marrying her aunt in his quest for the White House. In this twist on Hamlet, the murder is revealed not by a ghost but by a videotape left by the dead woman for Grayson to find. One is sucked into the story on the first page, but rushing to the end is futile. The writing is so skillful and the wordplay so exquisite that one wants to savor each paragraph the way the characters savor their Sazaracs. Perfection from start to finish; for all fiction collections. Rebecca Kelm, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Is the governor of Louisiana planning to kill his daughter because he knows that she knows he killed her mother to further his political and romantic interests-or is the daughter simply paranoid?
From the Publisher
“One is sucked into the story on the first page, but rushing to the end is futile. The writing is so skillful and the wordplay so exquisite that one wants to savor each paragraph the way the characters savor their Sazeracs. Perfection from start to finish.”—Library Journal (starred)“[A] well-paced novel that manages to be both taut with suspense and fluidly lyrical.”—Publishers Weekly

“Immensely readable and smart.”—Richard Ford“Elegant and frightening...Dewberry combines a Faulknerian sense of history's power with a clever murder mystery. The result is an unsettling story of ambition, repression and madness set in the gothic capital of America, New Orleans ...impossible to put down.”—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“A whodunit with a central question that's more Henry James than P.D. James: Is Grayson going mad, or is she the only sane one in the bunch?”—The Washington Post“A powerful novel of secrets, love and evil...should not be missed.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“[A] Hitchcockian gem.”—Publishers Weekly“A page-turner...Keeps the reader guessing until the end.”—Tim Gautreaux, author of The Next Step in the Dance

“Packs an unexpected punch.”—The Denver Post“Ms. Dewberry has fashioned a neat, fast-paced, immensely readable and smart murder mystery, set against the lurid intrigues and vivid backdrops of Louisiana politics—which means sex, death, money, ambition, and of course moral loss. What could possibly be better?”—Richard Ford, author of A Multitude of Sins

“The book ends with powerful and terrifying impact.”—The Bloomsbury Review

“A delicious blend of nail-biting action and sensual imagery. Dewberry lets it simmer then build to a boil.”—The New Orleans Times-Picayune

“In Sacrament of Lies, the line between certainty and madness is as thin as a razor and equally as dangerous. Elizabeth Dewberry has given us a rare gift, a literary thriller that will keep us up all night. This book is riveting.”—Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto“[A] compelling page-turner.”—Library Journal (starred)

“An enimently readable literary thriller...a very distinctive narrative voice.”—Booklist“An intense mystery novel with a wallop...[a] straightforward story about a murder—at least that's what the novel's narrator, Grayson, believes—in a contemporary Louisiana setting of squalid politics, sex and betrayal. That, of course, adds up to a delicious gumbo, and Dewberry's richly told tale assures it has plenty of spice...It's certainly a page-turner. Dewberry's story balances a lot of elements of literature and thriller with a keen eye, and she has constructed a mystery that likely will keep readers asking questions right up to the explosive conclusion...engrossing...It is indeed a mystery, but the real mystery goes a lot deeper than who did it.”—The State (SC)“Dewberry compellingly evokes the claustrophobic effects of fear and suspicion.”—Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine“A tight, fast-paced murder mystery set against the backdrop of Louisiana politics. It keeps you guessing until the very end...dark and whimsical moments...a page-turning, explosive showdown.”—The Tallahassee Democrat“Dewberry uses New Orleans beautifully, avoiding the Big Easy stereotypes, integrating into the novel the city's history and spectacular decadence...a cunningly wrought puzzle.”—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution“An absolutely original retelling of Hamlet...What recommends this story beyond mere cleverness is that it operates so compellingly as a novel in its own right.”—Nashville Scene

“A page-turner.”—

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101204337
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/04/2003
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
272
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

It's the last afternoon of Mardi Gras, and I sit here, very still, on the steps outside St. Louis Cathedral, looking out over Jackson Square, and wait. I look in the eyes of drag queens and beer vendors and jokers with knives in their heads, study the faces of tarot card readers and topless tourists and housewives in masks made of feathers.

Somebody's trying to kill me. Or at least lock me up.

It's also possible I'm being paranoid. I still don't completely trust myself-I haven't been threatened, I have no hard evidence-but I trust my father even less.

This much I do know: My father, the Governor of Louisiana, killed my mother. He had at least two people's help, not counting mine, both of whom are dead. I didn't know I was involved. I destroyed the evidence, which, at the time and for what it's worth, I thought was proof she'd killed herself. But now I know what happened-or not everything, but enough, more than I wish I knew-and I'm the only person left, besides my father, who does. So who's to say he won't kill me?

He couldn't do it himself. I still believe that. But I no longer feel certain he wouldn't hire someone.

Take care of Grayson, he would say. Take care.

Though I can't imagine who he'd say it to. The circle around my father is smaller than ever, tightening, like a noose, and I won't know the man-it will be a man-but I won't know who until he pulls a gun or a knife or offers me a drink that turns out to be poison.

So I'm trying to come up with a defense.

There's a cop nearby, a cop on a horse, and I'm afraid of horses, but I could get over that if I thought he'd save my life. I'm not going to trust the police, though. I can't trust anybody.

My mother's pistol sits in my purse, tight as the knot in my stomach, but I'm not going to pull it out here, in the crowd.

All I've got, then, is I'm safest where I am, in the open, surrounded by strangers.

Everything's happening very slowly, in vivid detail, as if I've already been shot through the heart and my brain is trying to stretch out my last moments in this life. A Dixieland jazz band and a guitar-strumming gospel singer and a ragged group of senior citizens with saws and spoons and a washboard for instruments are all making music at once, but I hear each note separately, one after the other, the way seconds move through time, and I feel a clock running down in my chest, gravity pulling at my throat.

An angry young woman with a crown of thorns tattooed on her forehead yells into a bullhorn, describing a lake of fire as if she's drunk from it, swum through it, bathed in it. A man in a turban draws a kerosene circle around himself and lights it with a match. He picks up a handful of flames and puts it in his mouth, rolls it on his tongue as if it's a delicacy in his home country.

I can almost taste it with him. I feel the heat in my mouth and taste something bitter, like ashes.

As the circle burns itself out, I'm smelling warm beer and sunburned skin and something sweet and earthy and full of yearning, like pipe smoke from a distance, or pot. Mostly, though, I watch the flow of people, hoping somehow I'll know the man I'm waiting for when he comes.

A monk in a purple robe carrying a dead frog on a cross moves toward me, and I stand up, ready for anything, but he doesn't have a gun. He has a leather whip for a belt, though. If he wants me to come with him, I'll start screaming-I won't go-and I take a big breath so I'll be able to yell, but he hands me an orange card that says, "Get Out of Purgatory Free."

"Trust in frogs," he says to me, and then, louder, to the preacher, "Praise frogs."

He moves away, and I turn the card over, but the other side is blank.

The tattooed preacher ignores him.

I turn around, my back exposed to the crowd, to go into the Cathedral. I'm not Catholic-I'm not even particularly religious-but I feel like praying, and I can't do it out here. I want a man who believes what he's saying to tell me, "This is what's true." I want him to lay his hands on me, healing. I want to be promised life and told to go in peace.

The church is locked, though, and empty. It's Shrove Tuesday, which the faithful supposedly spend in penance, preparing for Ash Wednesday, and a sign on the door says next confession is in an hour. It's open all day tomorrow, which does me no good today.

I sit back down on the stairs and look at the monk's card, sweat-stained now, in my hand.

It's hot, and I'm thirsty.

I don't believe in purgatory, but if I'm wrong and it's real, my mother's been there for the past year. My husband, Carter, and my mother's former lover, Dr. Fontenot, have been there less than a week, assuming they didn't go straight to hell.

I get my lighter out of my pocket-I've started smoking again-and set the card on fire and light a cigarette off the flame and let the card drop onto a stone stair. Then I watch the words on the paper crumble into ashes, and I crush out the embers with my foot.

I pull smoke from the cigarette deep into my lungs, fill myself with it.

I'm half-expecting my father to show up, just appear out of the crowd and walk over to me and sit down. I left a message on his private machine saying I'd be here, asked him to meet me, though who knows if he'll come. Crowds like this are always a security risk, which won't stop him unless he wants it to.

I've decided to tell him everything. I have nothing to lose now.

I know what you did, I will say to him. I know that you killed her.

Then I'll see what he does.

--From Sacrament of Lies by Elizabeth Dewberry, Copyright (c) February 2002, Putnam Pub Group, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“One is sucked into the story on the first page, but rushing to the end is futile. The writing is so skillful and the wordplay so exquisite that one wants to savor each paragraph the way the characters savor their Sazeracs. Perfection from start to finish.”—Library Journal (starred)

“[A] well-paced novel that manages to be both taut with suspense and fluidly lyrical.”—Publishers Weekly
“Immensely readable and smart.”—Richard Ford

“Elegant and frightening...Dewberry combines a Faulknerian sense of history's power with a clever murder mystery. The result is an unsettling story of ambition, repression and madness set in the gothic capital of America, New Orleans ...impossible to put down.”—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“A whodunit with a central question that's more Henry James than P.D. James: Is Grayson going mad, or is she the only sane one in the bunch?”—The Washington Post

“A powerful novel of secrets, love and evil...should not be missed.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“[A] Hitchcockian gem.”—Publishers Weekly

“A page-turner...Keeps the reader guessing until the end.”—Tim Gautreaux, author of The Next Step in the Dance
“Packs an unexpected punch.”—The Denver Post

“Ms. Dewberry has fashioned a neat, fast-paced, immensely readable and smart murder mystery, set against the lurid intrigues and vivid backdrops of Louisiana politics—which means sex, death, money, ambition, and of course moral loss. What could possibly be better?”—Richard Ford, author of A Multitude of Sins

“The book ends with powerful and terrifying impact.”—The Bloomsbury Review
“A delicious blend of nail-biting action and sensual imagery. Dewberry lets it simmer then build to a boil.”—The New Orleans Times-Picayune
“In Sacrament of Lies, the line between certainty and madness is as thin as a razor and equally as dangerous. Elizabeth Dewberry has given us a rare gift, a literary thriller that will keep us up all night. This book is riveting.”—Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto

“[A] compelling page-turner.”—Library Journal (starred)
“An enimently readable literary thriller...a very distinctive narrative voice.”—Booklist

“An intense mystery novel with a wallop...[a] straightforward story about a murder—at least that's what the novel's narrator, Grayson, believes—in a contemporary Louisiana setting of squalid politics, sex and betrayal. That, of course, adds up to a delicious gumbo, and Dewberry's richly told tale assures it has plenty of spice...It's certainly a page-turner. Dewberry's story balances a lot of elements of literature and thriller with a keen eye, and she has constructed a mystery that likely will keep readers asking questions right up to the explosive conclusion...engrossing...It is indeed a mystery, but the real mystery goes a lot deeper than who did it.”—The State (SC)

“Dewberry compellingly evokes the claustrophobic effects of fear and suspicion.”—Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine

“A tight, fast-paced murder mystery set against the backdrop of Louisiana politics. It keeps you guessing until the very end...dark and whimsical moments...a page-turning, explosive showdown.”—The Tallahassee Democrat

“Dewberry uses New Orleans beautifully, avoiding the Big Easy stereotypes, integrating into the novel the city's history and spectacular decadence...a cunningly wrought puzzle.”—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“An absolutely original retelling of Hamlet...What recommends this story beyond mere cleverness is that it operates so compellingly as a novel in its own right.”—Nashville Scene

“A page-turner.”—Southern Living
 
“Dewberry deftly and gracefully captures the harrowing fear, distrust, and dread of a woman abused psychologically by a powerful male...No one writing today can match Dewberry's skill in capturing her character's voice. As she tells her story, Grayson's fears become our fears, and her doubts become our own. Moreover, Dewberry perfectly renders Grayson's ambivalence about the religious meanings of evil, death, truth, even God...Dewberry's lyrical writing, her deft grasp of voice, and her penetrating psychological insights provide an unforgettable picture of loss, hope, and redemption.”—Charlotte Observer

“Engrossing...Grayson's first-person voice is convincing and compelling, and not without a touch of macabre humor...a very real and sympathetic protagonist. Grayson's indecision and conflicted loyalties have an immediacy that pulls the reader into her dilemma and keeps the pressure on until the final act.”—Tampa Tribune

“Dewberry does a skillful job of keeping the reader as off-balance as her narrator.”—St. Petersburg Times

“[A] taut, dramatic mystery...a crashing climax...Every word, every detail, is well chosen, so that the story is rich with action, tension, and emotion.”—Winston-Salem Journal
“Gracefully written...a solid story that constantly keeps the reader off balance.”—South Florida Sun-Sentinel
 
“Evocative prose.”—Abilene Reporter-News
 

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