Review: The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock

July 27, 2011 Harper Perennial, Historical Fiction, Mystery/Suspense, Review 12

  • Paperback:368 pages
  • Publisher:Harper Perennial; Original edition (July 19, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0062065092
  • Source: Publisher

Fifteen year old Cat Rozier, once a star pupil, is now a murderer. She admits it to the reader within the first few pages of the book:

I’m a murderer and it’s not just my fault. I can blame the Germans, and I can blame my parents, and I can blame my parents’ parents.  Don’t you see?  Once you know your History, it does explain everything.  It turns out I was a murderer before I was born (p. 5).


Cat lives with her mother on the small island of Guernsey.  She’s often picked on at school; she has no true friends.  That changes when the beautiful Nicolette befriends Cat when she moves transfers to the school in 1984.  The two become inseperable; never before has anyone been willing to put up with Cat’s “quirkiness.”  They do the typical teen rebellion sort of things: go to parties, drink, and shoplift.  But one apparent act of betrayal causes a rift in their friendship and they go their separate ways.

Cat has long been obsessed with her recently deceased father’s “research;” he dedicated his adulthood to finding the truth behind Guernsey’s occupation by the Germans during WWII in order to repair the reputation of his older brother Charlie, accused of working for the Germans and killing his own father.  Through her father’s letters and tapes of Charlie, recorded before his death, Cat reveals secrets buried within the roots of the island, and in her own family.

The novel alternates between Cat’s retelling of the murder of her best friend and the retelling of Charlie’s saga of imprisonment and torture. At times, the shift in narration is jolting, seemingly misplaced.  Eventually, however, the reader begins to notice a similarity in Charlie and Cat’s lives. The only difference is that Cat seemingly gets away with murder.

Cat’s character is extremely difficult to trust and believe.  While she states up front she committed a murder, it was hard for me to believe anything she said.  It was also extremely difficult to like her; she seemed to be able to lie at the drop of a hat.  She’s full of cynicism, and the typical teenage attitude. For these reasons, it was impossible for me to like her character. 

Charlie’s character, on the other hand, was a bit more sympathetic.  He himself was betrayed by someone he trusted and sent to a concentration camp to be tortured.  His explanations for what happened are unvalidated, they seem as flimsy as Cat’s reason’s for killing Nic.  Yet, Cat is able to get away with it, Charlie is not.

Ultimately, it is Horlcok’s gift for writing that made me adore this book, despite my feelings about Cat’s character.  Historical fiction has always been a favorite genre of mine; not one I often get to enjoy.  I appreciated the historical bits spread throughout the novel.  I admit to not knowing much about Guernsey, other than things I’ve read in other pieces of fiction.

I did find Cat’s footnotes (backing up claims she makes throughout her portion of the novel) a bit distracting, ultimately not referring to them much at all.  I understand the point; her father was quite the researcher, documenting all sorts of facts, and it was just natural for Cat to pick up on her father’s practice.  That said, many of the footnotes were quite entertaining, adding an element of Cat’s wicked sense of humor to the storyline.

The early parts of the book were difficult to get into, perhaps this is because it takes some time to get used to the shifting of the characters and time period. Once I got over the early chapters, however, I was truly engrossed in this book.  The overall theme of the book, lies, is quite an interesting one. We all tell lies for various reasons: to protect ourselves and others. But this small island is so riddled in lies, it’s difficult to believe they have remained hidden for so long.  Definitely a thought-provoking book, I can definitely see The Book of Lies as a book club selection.

 I highly recommend this to fans of historical fiction, noting that it tends to be a little on the dark side. Considering two of the characters are murderers, it would be hard not to be!


Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to review this book. Please be sure to check out the other stops:

Tuesday, July 19: Life In Review
Wednesday, July 20: Book Hooked Blog
Thursday, July 21: Book Addiction
Friday, July 22: Iwriteinbooks’s blog
Friday, July 22: Diary of an Eccentric
Tuesday, July 26: StephTheBookworm
Tuesday, July 26: Life in the Thumb
Thursday, July 28: Rundpinne
Monday, August 1: Crazy for Books
Tuesday, August 2: Peeking Between the Pages
Wednesday, August 3: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Thursday, August 4: I’m Booking It
Friday, August 5:  Savvy Verse & Wit
Friday, August 5: In the Next Room



12 Responses to “Review: The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock”

  1. Anna
    Twitter: annaeccentric

    I really enjoyed this book, too. Horlock’s writing is excellent, and I didn’t mind the shifts from the present to the past. Thanks for including the video, which I found very interesting and enjoyed seeing the scenery in Guernsey. I’ve linked to your review on War Through the Generations.

  2. Stephanie

    I am about halfway through this book and really warming up to it. So far, Cat’s portions of the book have me far more intrigued than Charlie’s!

  3. Pam (@iwriteinbooks)

    I loved this book but I’m starting to worry about my own character because I seem to be the only one who liked Cat! Haha I didn’t like love every bit of her but I did think she was pretty hysterical. Glad you ended up liking it in the end.

  4. Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours
    Twitter: age30books

    I’m kind of intrigued by the inclusion of Cat’s footnotes – I usually things like that.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the book even though you didn’t always enjoy Cat. Thanks for being a part of the tour Jenn.

  5. Heather
    Twitter: BookAddictHeath

    I had an odd reaction to this one. I thought it was so creative, so well-written, and so unique but ultimately I couldn’t love it. Perhaps it was because I disliked Cat so intensely, or perhaps it was because the alternating viewpoints didn’t work for me the way they should have. Either way, I loved the idea behind the book and several things about it, but overall it wasn’t a favorite for me.

  6. Kailana

    I received this unexpected and it has just been sitting on my TBR pile. I obviously should have read it by now!

  7. Jen
    Twitter: Crazybookblog

    I am reading this now and I am finding it strange and bizarre, yet fascinating. I alternate between wanting to read it and wanting to set it aside and be done with it. One thing is for sure, this book stirs up something in a lot of us!