“Sometimes I Lie,” a gripping 2017 thriller by Alice Feeney, a former BBC journalist, presents a complex narrative that entwines murder mystery tropes with a chilling twist – the narrator might be a habitual liar.
Set in England, the story revolves around Amber Reynolds, a 30-something assistant host for a popular BBC morning radio show.
The narrative begins on Boxing Day, with Amber in a coma, conscious yet unable to communicate. Through fragmented conversations she overhears, she learns the police suspect her husband, Paul, a successful novelist, in her accident.
Amber’s relationship with Paul has been strained since his first book’s success, and she suspects an affair between him and her sister, Claire.
Despite their estrangement, Amber hoped her recent pregnancy would mend their marriage.
In her hospital bed, Amber reflects on the events leading to her accident.
Her job is on the line due to constant clashes with the principal host, Madeline Frost. To save her career, Amber and her studio friend, Jo, execute a plan to get Madeline fired.
Concurrently, Amber’s past catches up with her when she reunites with Edward Clarke, an ex-boyfriend whose medical career she inadvertently destroyed.
Edward, now an orderly, blames Amber for his misfortunes, unaware that Claire was behind the accusations.
Interspersed with Amber’s recollections are diary entries from 1991, written by Claire.
These entries reveal that Claire, not Amber’s biological sister but a childhood friend, had a troubled past marked by violence and a lack of stable friendships. After Claire’s parents die in a suspicious housefire, which she might have set, she is adopted by Amber’s family.
In the present, Amber discovers she lost her pregnancy due to the accident. She has fragmented memories of spending Christmas Eve with Edward and suspects he drugged and raped her.
Her suspicions are confirmed when a hidden camera installed by Paul captures Edward raping her in the hospital.
As the story unfolds, Amber’s true nature is revealed. She poisoned Claire and her husband on Valentine’s Day and plans to adopt Claire’s twins, framing her ex-boss for the murders.
Edward vanishes, with Amber believing Claire may have killed him. Amber destroys Claire’s diaries, erasing evidence of her past.
The novel ends with Amber recovering and on holiday with Paul.
Her role in the deaths of five people and her manipulation raise questions about her true character.
Is she a cunning psychopath, or a victim who overcame a toxic relationship with a deranged sister?
The truth remains elusive, encapsulated in Amber’s frequent admission: “Sometimes I lie.”
Amber, the protagonist and unreliable narrator, is a 30-something assistant radio show host at the BBC.
She finds herself in a coma following a car accident, conscious but unable to communicate. Her reflections and memories form a significant part of the narrative.
Amber is entangled in a troubled marriage, workplace conflicts, and complex relationships with her sister and ex-boyfriend.
Paul is Amber’s husband and a successful novelist. Their marriage is strained, partly due to his success and Amber’s suspicions of an affair between him and her sister, Claire. He becomes a suspect in Amber’s accident, revealing complexities in their relationship.
Initially introduced as Amber’s sister, Claire is later revealed to be a childhood friend who was adopted by Amber’s family. Her troubled past and violent tendencies are chronicled in her diary entries from 1991.
Claire’s complex relationship with Amber is central to the plot, with hints of jealousy and manipulation.
Madeline is the principal host of the BBC radio show where Amber works. She is depicted as a source of conflict for Amber at her workplace. Amber’s plan to save her job involves scheming against Madeline, leading to her termination.
Edward, an ex-boyfriend of Amber, resurfaces in her life as a hospital orderly. His medical career was derailed by accusations made by Amber, which he discovers were actually filed by Claire. Edward harbors deep resentment towards Amber, which culminates in him raping her while she is in a coma.
Jo is Amber’s only friend at the radio station. She assists Amber in her plan against Madeline Frost, reflecting the cutthroat nature of their workplace environment.
1. The Unreliability of Memory and Perception
The book delves deeply into the theme of unreliable memory and perception, challenging readers to question the authenticity of the narrator’s recollections.
Through Amber Reynolds’ fragmented and often contradictory memories, the novel highlights the fallibility of human memory, especially when influenced by trauma or personal biases.
This theme is further compounded by the use of diary entries from Amber’s past, which may or may not be true reflections of what actually happened.
The narrative structure itself, shifting between different time periods and perspectives, reinforces the idea that our understanding of reality is often a complex, layered construct, susceptible to distortion and manipulation.
2. The Complexity of Human Relationships
At its core, the novel is a profound exploration of the intricacies and often hidden dynamics in human relationships.
The interactions between Amber, her husband Paul, her sister Claire, and her ex-boyfriend Edward are rife with secrets, lies, and betrayals, painting a picture of relationships that are anything but straightforward.
These relationships are not only central to the plot but also serve as a medium to explore themes like jealousy, loyalty, manipulation, and the lengths to which individuals will go to protect or destroy these bonds.
The revelation of Amber’s true nature and her actions towards those close to her raise poignant questions about the nature of love, trust, and the destructive potential of toxic relationships.
3. The Duality of Human Nature
The book masterfully explores the duality inherent in human nature, particularly through its protagonist, Amber.
The novel constantly blurs the lines between victim and perpetrator, innocence and guilt, reality and fabrication. This theme is exemplified in the character of Amber, who presents herself as a victim of circumstances, yet her actions and thoughts gradually reveal a more complex, possibly malevolent side.
This duality is mirrored in other characters as well, notably Claire, whose past and actions are shrouded in mystery and ambiguity.
By continually shifting the reader’s perceptions of the characters, the novel underscores the multifaceted nature of human beings, where good and evil are not distinct territories but interwoven aspects of the same fabric.
“Alice Feeney’s ‘Sometimes I Lie’ is a masterful blend of psychological thriller and murder mystery, anchored by an unreliable narrator whose deceitful nature constantly keeps the reader guessing.
The novel’s intricate plot, characterized by its dual timelines and deep exploration of character psyches, is both engaging and disturbing. The story’s strength lies in its ability to blur the lines between truth and lies, leaving readers in a perpetual state of doubt about Amber’s true intentions and the reality of the events she describes.