Lisa Unger,
Sliver of Truth
(Shaye Areheart, 2007)

This book is a sequel to Lisa Unger's Beautiful Lies, in which young freelance writer Ridley Jones saves a little boy's life, gets her picture in the paper and is launched into a journey that will strip away just about everything she thought she knew about herself, including her own origins and the dark reality of her family's secrets.

In Sliver of Truth, Ridley learns things about her boyfriend, Jake, that could wreck that relationship. More importantly, though, she and Jake, plus a mystery-man named Dylan, gradually dig up things about Ridley's philanthropic "uncle" Max that again make Ridley question who and what she can believe in, as well as challenges to figure out who she is, not just identity-wise, but personality-wise. Is she as obsessive and thrill-seeking as her biological father? Is she driven toward self-destruction? Will she destroy innocent people along the way? Can she even find anyone who can be described as innocent?

Perhaps the biggest question is: Will she survive? As Ridley, Jake and Dylan, in ever-shifting alliances, uncover more of Uncle Max's complex, dark and often brutal past, there are attempts to kill, torture, coerce, intimidate and kill all three of them. The journey into Max's secrets will also take them overseas. Oh, and by the way, Max died, near the end of Beautiful Lies. Or, did he?

I really enjoyed Beautiful Lies because of the intricate plot, complex characters and the author's skill at creating interesting imagery, metaphors and similes. Did Unger match that in her second book?

The story of Sliver of Truth is, if anything, more intricate than its predecessor. It is certainly darker, with more violence and more of a view of the world of crime. The interwoven stories of Ridley, Jake, Dylan and Max certainly make the story complex. And the scope of the story is bigger, as it goes international. If I met someone who said they had lived the life of Ridley in Beautiful Lies, I would say, sincerely, "Wow! What an ordeal!" If I met the Ridley of Sliver of Truth, I would say the same thing, but wonder if it could be true. There is nothing supernatural here, but it is an extreme as you can get.

The characters in Beautiful Lies were interesting and well-developed. In Sliver of Truth, Unger further develops the shadowy, elusive Ridley and Max, and introduces another troubled-good-guy character, Dylan, while Jake finds into the background, although his story becomes more complex. If you like introspective characters, Ridley is perfect for you, as she tries to rebuild her identity, while tackling such weighty issues as Nature (her genetic background) vs. Nurture (how she was raised) and how choice fits in.

In her first novel, Unger created some great mental imagery, and I really enjoyed that. In Sliver of Truth, much of that is missing, although the pace is good and the flow is smooth. What this book offers, instead of the imagery, are quirky little asides, where Ridley will briefly interrupt what is going on to tell you about herself. This reminded me of some television shows where the action will freeze to allow a main character to look right at the camera to explain or describe something. Early in Sliver Ridley debates, for the reader, whether it would be good to hear about her recent history (i.e., read Beautiful Lies) or just enjoy these next steps with her. I missed the imagery, but enjoyed the asides. If Unger were to put both aspects into her next book, it would be a great combination.

Sliver of Truth is a half-notch below Beautiful Lies, but fans of the first book will like the second one, especially if they want more dark intrigue.

review by
Chris McCallister

1 March 2008

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