Monday, February 2, 2015

MONDAY'S LIE :: Jamie Mason

Dee Aldrich and her brother Simon had what you might call an “unconventional” childhood. Raised by their mother, Annette Vess, a covert government operative who Dee refers to as “the reincarnation of Errol Flynn,” she and Simon learn spy game techniques while other kids are learning hopscotch and multiplication tables. Constantly tested and earning points for being alert and noticing her surroundings, Dee yearns for a “normal” life.

To establish that normality, Dee gravitates as far from her mother as possible -- to Patrick Aldrich, a mild-mannered, middle-of-the-road college classmate she sees as “a smooth groove in a bumpy road.” They marry after graduation and settle into a normal house to start their normal lives.

Monday's Lie, Jamie Mason’s firecracker of a second novel, picks up ten years into Dee and Patrick’s marriage and three years after Annette’s passing. Things are beginning to unravel for Dee and Patrick, and normal no longer looks so much greener than the other grass. They each discover the other has been hiding a pretty important secret, and the tension and distance between them is growing by the day.

On top of her marital strife, Dee starts to notice some strange goings-on, thanks in part to her well-honed observational skills. She sees a dark blue sedan everywhere she goes, the yoga studio she patronizes is burgled with her purse the seeming target, her house is searched so well only she could notice, and she thinks she sees a man from her mother’s working past.

Beginning as she heads toward the source of the mystery sedan, Monday’s Lie unfolds in flashbacks to the recent and not-so-recent past. As her investigation into the odd events builds a head of steam, Dee becomes more and more unsure which part of her life is the source of the danger that surrounds her – her eccentric operative mother or her “normal” husband.

Monday’s Lie is one of those gems that renders me angsty in the best of ways. I loved the ride and wanted to savor it, yet was dying to get to the next clue and ultimate answers. Mason writes at the most satisfying of paces and the tension is ratcheted just right.

Characters are a strong-suit in Monday’s Lie, and Annette Vess simply blew my doors off. Even from the grave, her presence was felt in almost every scene, her tenets echoing in Dee’s head as she works through the puzzles confronting her. Watching Dee’s thoughts about Annette soften over the course of the investigation was an added bonus, with Dee ultimately realizing that perhaps “training” and “mothering” aren’t mutually exclusive.

Jamie Mason does many things well. Substantively, she has written a very smart, kickass story. Monday’s Lie was intricately plotted from a variety of angles and yet it all came together and made sense in the end. Sounds simple, but it seems to happen less often than it should.

Stylistically, I’m a total sucker for a wicked-good sense of humor and an author's ability to turn a sublime phrase. Mason weaves her sharp sense of humor into the mix without making a mockery of a serious story, and damn can she turn the most average of ideas into a line worth reading again (and again) (or even writing down in one’s geeky notebook of book passages). For example [a young Dee has just flung herself on her bed, upset with her mother, who comes to the room to talk to her]:

“But I lost my battle with the knot in my throat as her weight pulled a valley into the mattress."
Monday's Lie comes out tomorrow, February 3.  Don't miss this one.

STREET SENSE: I highly recommend this smart thriller, filled with tension, heart, a dash of snarky humor, and characters I'd love to revisit. Annette Vess is one of my favorite characters in recent memory, and I have a feeling Monday’s Lie is going to be on my list of top reads for 2015.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE: I turned away from my mother’s daughter in the mirror. But I took her with me.

COVER NERD SAYS: The first time I saw the cover of Monday’s Lie was from a distance at Bouchercon. I didn't know anything about the book, including who had written it. But the cover drew me to the book immediately. I can’t even tell you exactly why, other than I love the simplicity and I love the color scheme. It’s a beautiful image, but the large red “LIE” is a warning to beware that beauty. Fantastic stuff.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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