Author: Paula Stokes
Length: 368 pages
For fans of Gone Girl, I Hunt Killers, and TV's How to Get Away with Murder.
Max Cantrell has never been a big fan of the truth, so when the opportunity arises to sell forged permission slips and cover stories to his classmates, it sounds like a good way to make a little money and liven up a boring senior year. With the help of his friends Preston and Parvati, Max starts Liars, Inc. Suddenly everybody needs something and the cash starts pouring in. Who knew lying could be so lucrative?
When Preston wants his own cover story to go visit a girl he met online, Max doesn’t think twice about hooking him up. Until Preston never comes home. Then the evidence starts to pile up—terrifying clues that lead the cops to Preston’s body. Terrifying clues that point to Max as the murderer.
Can Max find the real killer before he goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit? In a story that Kirkus Reviews called "Captivating to the very end," Paula Stokes starts with one single white lie and weaves a twisted tale that will have readers guessing until the explosive final chapters.
Protagonist: Max Cantrell actually likes having Saturday detention, and makes strides to have it every week. It's the only way he can see his girlfriend Parvati on the weekends, but one day when he goes above and beyond and takes the blame for someone else's phone going off he's presented with a very interesting idea, to create alibis and lie for other people, all for a small fee of course. However what he didn't expect was the this new venture would lead to him being the prime suspect in the disappearance and possible murder of his best friend Preston DeWitt. I really liked Max as a narrator and protagonist, he seemed very real and his motivations, while at times not exactly wise, were organic and felt true to character.
Romance: Normally I'm not a fan of established relationships in books, I'm much more of a fan of watching a relationship grow from it's inception instead of coming in mid way through. This was true with the relationship between Max and Parvati as well, at least it was at first. For the first few chapters the relationship between Max and Parvati felt shallow and while they had great physical chemistry, I felt like there was no real emotional chemistry between the two. There was even a moment somewhere in the first ten or so chapters that I was hoping that they would just break up. However over the course of the book, as things begin to unfold and unravel, I felt a stronger connection between the two and really saw their relationship as something deep and meaningful and when their relationship got inevitably rocky, instead of hoping for their relationship to implode as I was hoping for before, I found myself wanting them to stay together.
World-Building: I'm a huge fan of Stokes's writing. It's phenomenal. It's always very easy to tell where the narrator is in the story and the imagery and descriptions in general are stellar. Even though this is a contemporary and it doesn't quite have the world-building and exposition needed in something like a high fantasy, how things begin to unfold and unravel in this book was just mind-blowing. Every twist and every turn and every fact that we learn as this story progresses is absolutely brilliant.
Predictability: As for those twists and turns well, for the most part I was completely shocked when they were revealed, except for one thing, one twist that I called from about halfway or so through this book. However the circumstances and intricacies surrounding this twist weren't quite what I thought. I think my grandiose conspiracy theory mind may have gotten away from me at some point because what actually happens in the story makes much more sense than my crackpot theories, even though a small part of me is partial to those theories. And of course all of that leads to an even bigger and definitely more unexpected twist which was pretty mind blowing. There was so much to this book that I don't know if I could have predicted no matter how good I was, but I will say that if you look for it there's pretty much foreshadowing for every twist there was.
Ending: The ending is one of those things that's hard for me to talk about, especially in such a highly mysterious book as this one is, but as always I'll try to do my best to talk about it in the most spoiler free way possible. First off let's talk that final confrontation, holy crap this is where things get particularly twisty as secrets and lies start coming out unraveling a great many things. Everything is so fast paced and full of high adrenaline and action as things move ever closer towards the end and the epilogue. Yes, this book has an epilogue and well, not everything is tied up, but it's at that point where most everything is figured out and if there isn't something that's totally wrapped up then there's some kind of sign about where it's going in the future.
This was actually kind of a surprise to me, like Paula Stokes's other stand alone novel The Art of Lainey I wasn't really planning on giving this book 5 stars from the beginning, in fact this book begins strong but a bit slow, and plus I wasn't a big fan of the established relationship between Max and Parvati. However along the way everything seemed to align perfectly and form this amazing high intensity, action packed, murder mystery thriller that it would seem wrong for me not to give 5 stars to.