James Siegel,
(Hachette, 2006)

Author James Siegel seems to be writing thrillers for words starting with "De." My review for his latest thriller, Deceit, follows reviews I have done for Detour and Derailed. Like those novels, this review will be for the audiobook version of the tale.

Tom Valle is a reporter at a small California town newspaper. He used to work at a major paper in New York, but had to leave after it was discovered that he faked dozens of stories. Whereas his editor at the time was forced into retirement, Tom, somehow, was able to find work in the town of Littleton. Perhaps he should count his blessings that he wasn't drummed out of the journalism field completely after giving it such a black eye. After all, when you find out one reporter is a liar, doesn't it make you suspect all of them, at least just a little bit?

The highlight of Tom's journalistic life now seems to be reporting on local mall openings and centenarian birthday parties. But one day he gets a little excitement (at least for a small town) when he gets to report on a two-car collision not too far out of Littleton that leaves one driver dead -- burned to a crisp, in fact. As he dutifully follows up on the story, Tom finds out from the coroner that the deceased driver is a castrated black male instead of the white male described in the guy's wallet that somehow survived the flames.

A professional liar is probably better at rooting out deceit than most people, and Tom starts to uncover what could have been the story of his career -- except it is farfetched enough that, with his disgraced background, who would believe him? In short, Tom discovers that the great flood that destroyed the neighboring town of Littleton Flats 50 years ago might not have been caused by the officially declared reason -- faulty workmanship on a nearby dam. If you want to know what the death of a town has to do with a charred eunuch, you'll have to check out Deceit yourself.

Dylan Baker narrates this tale. You might know him from films such as Along Came a Spider and Thirteen Days. I thought he did a good job with male characters, but it took me the first CD or two to appreciate his female vocalizations as his voice is a little deep. In the end, I was happy with his interpretation of the novel.

Siegel uses his usual techniques of misrepresentation and misdirection to keep you guessing in this thriller. Characters reveal clues as they have seen them. Personal interpretations can be misleading. I was almost done with the book before I realized what the cover-up was about -- yet, the puzzle pieces were given throughout the story. While not the best of the "De-" novels, I definitely got some entertainment value out of Deceit. I can't help but wonder what James' next book will be titled: Denial? Deranged? Debased?

review by
Wil Owen

6 October 2007

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