White Lies by Jeremy Bates tells the timeless story that all mothers impart to their children: “you tell one lie and you’ll end up telling another lie to support it.” That it is always better to tell the truth because you’ll remember the truth but eventually find yourself over your head when you tell a lie.
The story starts with thirty-ish English teacher Katrina, driving through a ‘dark and stormy night,’ picks up a young hitchhiker who turns out to be drunk and proves to be the epitome of the reason young women shouldn’t pick up hitchhikers. He acts predatory, makes lewd remarks, seems to be paying inappropriate attention to her and displays misogynistic tendencies. Fearful for her safety, Katrina lies about her destination in order to get him out of the car. Continuing on her journey, she arrives at her destination and begins the process of settling in.
Then to her surprise and dismay she discovers on the first day on the new job that the hitchhiker is a new coworker, the somewhat brilliant philosophy teacher who, though respected for his knowledge and ability to teach, is a well-known drunkard, even on the job.
With its Hitchcock-like overtones, White Lies falls into the psychological thriller genre. When the hitchhiker/fellow teacher suspects she was lying about living at the lake, she tells him it’s her vacation house. After all, she doesn’t have to rely on just her meager teacher’s salary to live on–her mother left her well-off. But when he continues to challenge her, she spouts off that she is going to have a party at the lake house and invite all the teachers.
Soon Katrina meets a tall, dark, and handsome man who is just passing through town, and they develop a romance. He encourages her to go ahead with the party, that she can rent a cabin easily. But soon, Katrina finds herself caught up in the net of having to tell more lies, and it gets easier. Then it catches up with her with a vengeance. When the ever-expanding web of lies lands Katrina as a witness to a murder, she must decide to come clean or to abet the cover-up.
White Lies is fast-paced and will appeal to readers of both sexes. The plot is somewhat familiar but the deeper it gets into the story it begs the reader to suspend belief as some of the situations and the protagonists’ reaction to them go against a character’s development within the story. To complicate matters, a number of supporting characters are more like caricatures and seem to exist only to color the scenery. A bevy of drunken teachers cavorting in the dark around the lake as they are ignorant of a fight, a murder, and violent arguments going on around them seem like scenes lifted from a B-movie. And Katrina’s love interest seems totally out of character as she learns more and more about her lover’s dark past, which is somewhat fantastical in itself.
Still, the scenery and sense of place make for a darkly drawn story and the action moves right along. The climax finally gives pause to answer the question of when a “white lie” turns bad: what do good people do?