The book: In Lies She Told (Crooked Lane Press) frazzled suspense author Liza Cole has a deadline looming and no shortage of personal problems competing for her attention. When her husband’s best friend goes missing, Liza throws herself into her forthcoming novel, whose heroine, Beth, discovers her husband is cheating. Beth is determined to seek revenge, but quickly finds herself dumping the body of her husband’s mistress into the East River. Suddenly, Liza and Beth’s worlds collide as Liza’s husband’s body is recovered from the East River and Liza is arrested for his murder. The novel unfolds in two parallel worlds full of psychological twists and turns.
The author: Cate Holahan ’02 wrote the psychological suspense novel The Widower’s Wife (Crooked Lane Press), and is an award-winning journalist and a former television producer. She lives in New Jersey.
Opening Paragraphs: He’s tracking my time. Every ten seconds, Trevor’s dark eyes dart to the digital clock on his computer screen, a driver checking his rearview. My pitch has not impressed. He has more important things to attend to, authors who bring in more money. My work is not worth these valuable minutes.
He doesn’t say any of this, of course. Our decade-long relationship has made his thoughts apparent. I read them in the line crinkling his brow as he sits across from me in his office chair, scratching his goatee while the air conditioner’s hiss recalls the reputational damage wrought by my latest book, Accused Woman. Not my best work, to say the least. Critics dubbed the protagonist “Sandra Dee on diazepam.” She lacked agency, they said. Too many things happened to her. Really, she was too like me to be likeable. My former psychiatrist, Dr. Sally Sertradine, suggested similar failings.
“An affair?” Finally he speaks … barely. A true Brit, Trevor drops the ending r. His accent mocks me, as though my idea has so offended him that even his critique doesn’t require clear articulation.
He removes the wire-framed glasses previously perched on the wide bridge of his nose, sets them on his mouse pad, and walks to his window. Before him lies a landscape of penthouse terraces. In Manhattan, success is determined by view. Trevor’s placement, high above even the city’s wealthy, is a reminder of his important relevance to my own, of the weight of his opinion should carry as opposed to mine.
“There’s hardly a new way to do an affair.”
“Well, I think of it as a classic revenge story.” My voice cracks as I make my case. Dr. Sally also said I regress into adolescence at the first whiff of confrontation. The hormones are making things worse. “I think romantic suspense readers want —”
“Right. What they want.” He faces me and nods. Trevor talks with this head the way Italians speak with hand gestures. The angle of his chin conveys his amusement or displeasure. “You must give your audience what they’re craving. Readers are done with love triangles and tortured consciences. Consider what Hollywood is buying: stories about pushing sexual taboos and psychological manipulation. People want to play mind games in the bedroom, eh?”
A forty-two-year-old guy is telling me, a thirty-five-year-old woman smack in the middle of my target audience demographic, what my peers want in the sack. Sad fact is, I should probably take notes. For the past year, David and I have only bothered with intercourse when my basal temp kicks up. Trevor is recently divorced and inarguably attractive: a Bronze Age Rodin of a man. Women must be, as he would say, “queuing up.”
He snaps into an unknown rhythm. Suddenly, his eyes brighten like he’s figured out the step. “How about something with psychiatrists? Does he love her or is he messing with her mind?”
I could name four books involving twisted therapists that graced bestseller lists in the past two years. But doing so would just support Trevor’s suggestion. He isn’t claiming that his idea is original, only that it’s “on trend.” Trends sell, whether writers like them or not.
Reviews: “[Done] with a master’s hand. One of those rare thrillers that really will keep you reading all night.” —Kirkus
“In this chilling cat-and-mouse tale… Holahan keeps the action going.” —Publishers Weekly