Since “One Perfect Lie” by Lisa Scottoline contains many lies, I thought I had better tell you one perfect truth. Having written reviews of some of Lisa’s work previously, the publisher sent me an advance copy of this book, which is scheduled to be released on April 11, 2017.
I must admit I like mysteries that are rather current, and have a local geographical setting and Lisa satisfies this taste with such things as Dr. Phil’s often used quote of: “How’s it working for you,” along with the term “affluenza” (a defense used by Ethan Couch in 2013 to get him off of serving jail time after killing four pedestrians while driving drunk). The controversial fracking procedures play a major part in the story. And finally, most of the action happened in Pennsylvania, with the climax occurring in Philadelphia.
The story opens with Curt Abbott (alias Chris Berman) applying for a teaching job at Central Valley High School, in south central Pennsylvania. Falsifying his credentials and all personal information about himself, Chris was hired as a teacher of government and economics as well as assistant coach for the varsity baseball team. This starts a series of twists and turns to the plot that exceeded Chubby Checkers’ 1960 song version of “The Twist”.
Chris has to learn as much as possible about the school, the students (especially members of the baseball team and their parents) and the resources available in the week leading up to the anniversary of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing so he can produce a similar catastrophe. The affable and handsome new employee is accepted by all the teachers and administration at the school. His research on social media of many of the employees and students make it easy for him to play psychological games with them to drive a wedge between them to accomplish his goal. All was going as planned in finding out where to obtain a truck and ammonium nitrate for his bomb until Chris meets a teacher from Wyoming, where Chris supposedly went to college. However, Mr. Yomes, who asked Chris many questions about Wyoming, shortly thereafter relieves Chris of this hurdle by “committing suicide.” Lisa personifies Chris in such a way that I wished that Chris wore a “white hat.” However, his admission that he murdered someone previously put that hope to rest.
Chris’ relationship with three of his baseball players contributes an important part of the story. Evan (owner of a new BMW) and son of Dr. Paul and Mindy Kostis; Raz Sematov, whose mom, Susan, has to fend for herself because her husband, Neil, recently died; and Jordan, whose mother, Heather, is also single since Jordan’s dad left the family at the birth of Jordan. Lisa zeroes in on the difficulties of the above three mothers concerning communication with the other members of their family (or lack thereof) and the important aspect of trust. All three of the women succeed in becoming better moms through the actions and encouragement of Chris.
I almost thought I could have written the climax to the story (although obviously not as well) because Lisa had me chuckling. She must have been drinking an Arnold Palmer or possibly even a triple latte when writing it because to me it was outrageous. Certainly, she couldn’t be drinking anything stronger! It reminded me of a comic book, or at least the Great Wallendas. Fortunately, it turned out a lot better than the ill-fated Kiteman stunt on opening day of the 1972 season of the Philadelphia Phillies baseball game at Veterans’ Stadium (for a laugh, see: http://www.thebassbarn.com/forum/12-dry-dock/94508-great-article-bill-giles-kite-man.html).
In order not to give the story away and hopefully to entice you to read “One Perfect Lie,”,I leave you with a few questions: Did Chris succeed in his mission? What effect did Chris’ work with the above three boys and their parents have? What importance did the three siblings: Courtney Shank Wheeler (a teacher at the school) and David and Jimmy Shank play? What were the primary and secondary targets of the bombing? Where did Chris finally end up?
My dear “Mother Margaret” many times used the saying: “Everyone to their own taste … said the old woman as she kissed the cow.” Well, I’m not old, but ancient – nearly a century old according to our six-year-old grandson (but not a woman) but I don’t kiss cows. However, I’ll accept a triple decker cone of Lisa Scottoline’s reads any day and enjoy the flavors, as I’m sure you will if you decide to read “One Perfect Lie.”
Jeff Hall, of Honey Brook, contributes columns to Berks-Mont Newspapers. Questions/comments may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org