Charlotte wants to start fresh. She wants to forget her past, forget prison and, most of all, forget Sean. But old habits die hard. Despite the ankle monitor she must wear as part of her parole agreement and frequent visits to her therapist, she soon finds herself sliding back toward the type of behavior that sent her to prison in the first place.
The further down that path she goes, however, the closer she gets to the crime that put her in prison all those years ago. And that’s the one memory she can’t face.
Until one day, Sean tracks her down.
Charlotte is a woman trying to be good, even when she isn’t sure she wants to be.
Author Amy Lloyd relates that, “As a teenage goth I loved nothing more than sitting at home reading true crime books about serial killers.” Lloyd’s pursuit paid off: Her second novel, One More Lie, is a gripping, dark, and disturbing psychological thriller about two young adults who have been released from prison after serving sentences for committing a heinous crime when they were young children. Charlotte maintains she has no memory of the tragic incident — she claims that she only knows what she has been told over the years.
Charlotte has just been released for the second time with a new identity designed to shield her from the negative publicity and harassment that would surely ensue if her real name were known. Her first attempt to live outside an institutional setting did not go well, and she was again incarcerated. She was singularly unequipped to navigate the world as an adult and had no understanding of boundaries. She didn’t want to leave the unit, as she calls it, “where it’s clean and there are rules and everybody follows them. I think of the three meals they serve every day, how there are no decisions to make and I don’t end up hungry and tired because I forgot to eat lunch again; how I never needed to worry about things like money and what to wear and whether people thought I was weird. I was never bored and I was never excited .the nurses and the assistants made sure the time passed, always going forward, always accounted for.” But now that she has been given another chance, she wants only to forget everything that happened before. That includes her former friend and playmate, Sean. Charlotte has gotten a job at a department store, and the terms and conditions of her parole require her to wear an ankle monitor, have frequent sessions with her therapist, Dr. Isherwood, to whom she has an unhealthy attachment, and live in a supervised halfway house for women. Before long, however, she is again engaging in behavior that, if discovered, will cause her to lose her job and send her back to prison.
Worse, Sean manages to track her down, even though the two of them are forbidden to have contact. “Are you surprised?” he asks her, adding, “You shouldn’t be. We’ll always find each other, won’t we, Petal?” Sean was just 11 and Charlotte only ten years old when their disabled classmate was killed. They were convicting of murdering him, and literally grew up while institutionalized. He is obsessed with Charlotte, complaining that he misses her, but sometimes hates her. “you’re like a loose tooth I can’t stop messing with. Stubborn, clinging at the root. You know?”
They don’t know about how a little lie turns into a big lie and then a bigger lie until you’re lying so much you can’t remember what really happened.
It soon becomes clear that Sean’s influence is not helpful to Charlotte second attempt to build a life for herself outside of prison. Unlike Charlotte, Sean is not on parole and unsupervised. His life lacks structure and he engages in criminal behavior on a regular basis.
Lloyd has crafted complex, multi-layered characters that challenge readers to contemplate the horror of which human beings are capable. Charlotte and Sean seem to have never really grown up because of what happened when they were young children, and the consequences that followed. Sean may be a sociopath, while Charlotte is much more nuanced. Lloyd reveals Charlotte’s internal struggle to readers as she manipulates those around her in her seeming quest for a normal life surrounded by others who love her. She has only felt that her therapist offered her unconditional love and the thought of not having Dr. Isherwood’s undivided attention or an going relationship terrifies and infuriates her. Charlotte professes a desire to be good, even though it is clear that much of the time she doesn’t really have the resilience, focus, or discipline to be a stable, productive person. Sean, however, has very different motivations, revenge and anger prime among them. As he looks for her, he feels “something between love and hate, blaming her for all of this.” And he wonders if she is happy, and whether, like him, she has to live “[s]urrounded by people who would kill her if they knew who she was?”
Lloyd keeps the action moving at a steady pace via Charlotte’s first-person narrative that alternates between when she was ten years old and present day. Sean’s present-day, first-person perspective gives insight into his psyche. Both are inherently unreliable narrators. Lloyd reveals what transpired all those years ago in snippets, as well as the characters’ current thought processes and feelings. Charlotte engages in increasingly obsessive and reckless behavior that compels the action forward toward the eventual revelation of what really happened when she and Sean were children. Lloyd keeps her readers guessing as to which narration is the least reliable as the story’s pace quickens and the tension mounts. Ultimately, Lloyd delivers a jaw-dropping conclusion that readers will likely never see coming and will find themselves pondering long after reading the last page of the book.
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