The King of Lies: A Novel

The King of Lies: A Novel

by John Hart

Paperback(First Edition)

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From the masterful New York Times bestselling and two-time Edgar Award-winning author of The Last Child and Down River, comes this tour de force of murder and the dark ripples it sends through a man, his family and community.

Jackson Workman Pickens—known to most as Work—mindlessly holds together his life: a failing law practice left to him when his father, Ezra, mysteriously disappeared, a distant wife, and a fragile sister, Jean, damaged by the shared past they've endured.

And then Ezra's body is discovered.

Set to inherit his father's fortune, Work becomes a prime suspect. But so does Jean. Fearing the worst, Work launches his own investigation, crossing paths with a power-hungry detective, a string of damning evidence, and the ugly rumors that swirl within his small, moneyed Southern town. Desperate for the redemption that has eluded him for so many years and stripped of everything he once valued, Work fights to save his sister, clear his name, and regain the love of the woman to whom he gave his heart so many years before.

Praise for King of Lies:

"The King of Lies moves and reads like a book on fire." —-Pat Conroy

"Grisham-style intrigue and Turow-style brooding." —New York Times

"[An] ambitious debut thriller…a gripping performance." —People Magazine

"Compares favorably to the best of Scott Turow" —Publishers Weekly (starred)

"A striking new talent." —Entertainment Weekly

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312677374
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 02/01/2011
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 70,294
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

John Hart is the New York Times bestselling author of Down River and The Last Child. The only author in history to win the best novel Edgar Award for consecutive novels, John has also won the Barry Award and England's Steel Dagger Award for best thriller of the year. He was born and raised in North Carolina. For a time he practiced criminal defense law, but left to focus on his writing.

Read an Excerpt

The King of Lies

By John Hart

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2006 John Hart
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-0526-8


I've heard it said that jail stinks of despair. What a load. If jail stinks of any emotion, it's fear: fear of the guards, fear of being beaten or gang-raped, fear of being forgotten by those who once loved you and may or may not anymore. But mostly, I think, it's fear of time and of those dark things that dwell in the unexplored corners of the mind. Doing time, they call it — what a joke. I've been around long enough to know the reality: It's the time that does you.

For some time, I'd been bathed in that jailhouse perfume, sitting knee-to-knee with a client who'd just gotten life without parole. The trial had damned him, as I'd told him it would. The state's evidence was overwhelming, and the jury had zero sympathy for a three-time loser who had shot his brother during an argument about who'd get control of the remote. Twelve of his supposed peers, and not one cared that he'd been drinking, that he was cracked to the gills, or that he didn't mean to do it. No one cared that his brother was an ass and a felon in his own right, not the jury and least of all me. All I wanted was to explain his appeal rights, answer any legal questions, and get the hell out. My fee application to the state of North Carolina would wait until the morning.

On most days I was ambivalent, at best, about my chosen profession, but on days like this I hated being a lawyer; that hatred ran so deep that I feared something must be wrong with me. I hid it as others would a perversion. And this day was worse than most. Maybe it was the case or the client or the emotional aftermath of one more needless tragedy. I'd been in that room a hundred times, but for some reason it felt different this time. The walls seemed to shift and I felt a momentary disorientation. I tried to shake it off, cleared my throat, and stood. We'd had bad facts, but the decision to go to trial had not been mine to make. When he'd stumbled from the trailer, bloody and weeping, he'd had the gun in one hand, the remote control in the other. It was broad daylight and he was out-of-his-head drunk. The neighbor looked out the window when my client started screaming. He saw the blood, the gun, and called the cops. No lawyer could have won the trial — I'd told him as much. I could have had him out in ten, but he refused to take the plea arrangement I'd negotiated. He wouldn't even talk about it.

The guilt may have been too much, or perhaps some part of him needed the punishment. Whatever the case, it was over now.

He finally tore his gaze from the jail-issue flip-flops that had known a thousand feet before his and forced his eyes to mine. Wet nostrils shone in the hard light, and his red eyes jittered, terrified of whatever they saw in that jigsaw mind of his. He'd pulled the trigger, and that brutal truth had finally taken root. The trail had wound its way across his face as we'd talked for the past few hours. His denials had sputtered to a halt, and I'd watched, untouchable, as hope shriveled and died. I'd seen it all before.

A sopping wet cough, his right forearm smearing mucus across his cheek. "So that's it, then?" he asked.

I didn't bother to answer. He was already nodding to himself, and I could see his thoughts as if written in the dank air that hung between us: life without parole and him not yet twenty-three. It generally took days for this brutal truth to bore through the bullshit tough-guy act that every dumb-ass killer carried into this place like some kind of sick birthright. Maybe this joker was smarter than I'd given him credit for. In the brief time since the judge handed down his sentence, he'd grown the lifer stare. Fifty, maybe sixty years behind the same redbrick walls. No chance of parole. Not twenty years, not thirty or even forty, but life, in caps. It would kill me, and that is God's own truth.

A glance at my watch told me I'd been in there for almost two hours, which was my limit. I knew from experience that the smell had by now permeated my clothes, and I could see the dampness where his hands had pawed at my jacket. He saw the watch come up and he lowered his eyes. His words evaporated in the still air, leaving a vacuum that my body settled into as I stood. I didn't reach to shake his hand and he didn't reach for mine, but I noticed a new palsy in his fingers.

He was old before his time, all but broken at twenty-three, and what might have been sympathy wormed into a heart I'd thought forever beyond such things. He started to cry, and his tears fell to the filthy floor. He was a killer, no question, but he was going to hell on earth first thing the next morning. Almost against my will, I reached out and put a hand on his shoulder. He didn't look up, but he said that he was sorry, and I knew that this time he truly was. I was his last touch with the real world, the one with trees. All else had been pared away by the razor-sharp reality of his sentence. His shoulders began to heave beneath my hand, and I felt a nothingness so great, it almost had physical weight. That's where I was when they came to tell me that my father's body had finally been found. The irony was not lost on me.

The bailiff who escorted me out of the Rowan County Jail and to the office of the district attorney was a tall, wide-boned man with gray bristles where most of us have hair. He didn't bother to make small talk as we wound through the halls packed with courthouse penitents, and I didn't push it. I'd never been much of a talker.

The district attorney was a short, disarmingly round man who could turn off his eye's natural twinkle at will; it was an amazing thing to watch. To some, he was a politician, open and warm. To others, he was the cold, lifeless instrument of his office. For a few of us behind the curtain, he was a regular guy; we knew him and liked him. He'd taken two bullets for his country, yet he never looked down on people like myself, what my father had often called "the soft underbelly of a warless generation." He respected my father, but he liked me as a person, and I'd never been sure why. Maybe because I didn't shout the innocence of my guilty clients the way most defense lawyers did. Or maybe because of my sister, but that was a whole different story.

"Work," he said as I entered the room, not bothering to get up. "I'm damn sorry about this. Ezra was a great lawyer."

The only son of Ezra Pickens, I was known to a few as Jackson Workman Pickens. Everybody else liked to call me "Work," which was humorous I guess.

"Douglas." I nodded, turning at the sound of the office door closing behind me as the bailiff left. "Where'd you find him?" I asked.

Douglas tucked a pen into his shirt pocket and took the twinkle from his eye. "This is unusual, Work, so don't look for any special treatment. You're here because I thought you should hear it from me before the story breaks." He paused, looked out the window. "I thought maybe you could tell Jean."

"What does my sister have to do with this?" I asked, aware that my voice sounded loud in the cramped, cluttered space. His eyes swiveled onto me and for a moment we were strangers.

"I don't want her to read about it in the papers. Do you?" His voice had chilled; the moment had not played well. "This is a courtesy call, Work. I can't go beyond the fact that we've found his body."

"It's been eighteen months since he disappeared, Douglas, a long damn time with nothing but questions, whispers, and the looks that people give when they think you can't tell. Do you have any idea how hard this has been?"

"I'm not unsympathetic, Work, but it doesn't change anything. We haven't even finished working the crime scene. I can't discuss the case with a member of the defense bar. You know how bad that would look."

"Come on, Douglas. This is my father, not some nameless drug dealer." He was clearly unmoved. "For God's sake, you've known me my whole life."

It was true — he had known me since I was a kid — but if there was any cause for sentiment, it failed to reach the surface of his lightless eyes. I sat down and rubbed a palm across my face, smelling the jailhouse stink that lingered there and wondering if he smelled it, too.

"We can do the rounds," I continued in a softer tone, "but you know that telling me is the right thing."

"We're calling it murder, Work, and it's going to be the biggest story to hit this county in a decade. That puts me in a tough spot. It'll be a media frenzy."

"I need to know, Douglas. This has hit Jean the hardest. She's not been the same since that night — you've seen it. If I'm going to tell her about our father's death, I'll need to give her some details; she'll want them. Hell, she'll need them. But most of all, I need to know how bad it is. I'll need to prepare her. Like you said, she shouldn't read it in the paper." I paused, took in a breath, and focused. I needed to visit the crime scene, and for that I needed his agreement. "Jean needs to be handled just right."

He steepled his fingers under his chin, as I'd seen him do a thousand times, but Jean was my trump, and he knew it. My sister had shared a special friendship with the DA's daughter. They'd grown up together, best friends, and Jean was in the same car when a drunk driver crossed the centerline and hit them head-on. Jean suffered a mild concussion; his daughter was nearly decapitated. It was one of those things, they said, and it could just as easily have been the other way around. Jean sang at her funeral, and the sight of her could pull tears from Douglas's eyes even now. She'd grown up under his roof and, apart from myself, I doubted that any one person felt her pain the way Douglas did.

The silence stretched out, and I knew that my arrow had slipped through this one small chink in his armor. I pressed on before he could think too much.

"It's been a long time. Are you sure it's him?"

"It's Ezra. The coroner is on-scene now and he'll make the official call, but I've spoken with Detective Mills and she assures me that it's him."

"I want to see where it happened."

That stopped him, caught him with his mouth open. I watched as he closed it.

"Once the scene is cleared —"

"Now, Douglas. Please."

Maybe it was something in my face, or maybe it was a lifetime of knowing me and ten years of liking me. Maybe it was Jean after all. Whatever the reason, I beat the odds.

"Five minutes," he said. "And you don't leave Detective Mills's side."

Mills met me in the parking lot of the abandoned mall where the body had been found, and she was not pleased. She radiated pissed-off from the bottom of her expensive shoes to the top of her mannish haircut. She had a pointed face, which emphasized her look of natural suspicion; because of this, it was impossible for anyone to find her beautiful, but she had a good figure. She was in her midthirties — about my age — yet lived alone and always had. Contrary to speculation around the lawyer's lounge, she wasn't gay. She just hated lawyers, which made her okay in my book.

"You must have kissed the DA's ass to get this, Work. I can't even believe I've agreed to it." Mills stood only five five or so but seemed taller. What she lacked in physical strength, she made up for in smarts. I'd seen her shred more than one of my colleagues who had presumed to challenge her on cross.

"I told him I won't leave your side, and I won't. I just need to see. That's all."

She studied me in the gray afternoon light and her animosity seemed to drain away. The sight of a softening expression in a face rigorously trained against such things was vaguely repellant, yet I appreciated it nonetheless.

"Stay behind me and touch nothing. I mean it, Work. Not one damn thing."

She began a purposeful stride across the cracked, weed-filled parking lot, and for a moment I was unable to follow. My eyes moved over the mall, the parking lot, and then found the creek. It was a dirty creek, choked with litter and red clay; it flowed into a concrete tunnel that ran underneath the parking lot. I could still remember the stink of it, the chemical reek of gasoline and mud. For an instant, I forgot why I'd come.

It could have happened yesterday, I thought.

I heard Mills call my name and I tore my eyes away from that dark place and the childhood it had come to represent. I was thirty-five now and here for a very different reason. I walked away from it, walked to Mills, and together we approached what had once been the Towne Mall. Even in its prime, it had been ugly, a prefab strip mall sandwiched between the interstate and a power-transfer station that chewed at the sky with towers and high-tension lines. Built in the late sixties, it had struggled for years with imminent closure. Only a third of the stores had had tenants as of a year ago, and the last one had fled with winter. Now the place crawled with bulldozers, wrecking balls, and itinerant workers, one of whom, according to Mills, had located the body in a storage closet at the back of one of the stores.

I wanted the details and she gave them to me in short, bitten sentences that the warm spring breeze could not soften.

"At first all he saw were ribs, and he thought they were dog bones." She threw me a glance. "Not bones that a dog would eat, but a dog skeleton."

I nodded foolishly, as if we weren't talking about my father. To my right, a hydraulic jackhammer gnawed concrete. To my left, the land rose to the heart of downtown Salisbury; the buildings there seemed to gleam, as if made of gold, and in a sense they were. Salisbury was a rich town, with a lot of old money and a fair amount of new. But in places, the beauty was thin as paint and could barely hide the cracks; for there was poverty here, too, although many pretended there was not.

Mills lifted the yellow crime-scene tape and ushered me underneath. We entered the mall through what used to be a double door, now a ragged mouth with crushed cinder-block teeth. We moved past boarded-up storefronts to the last in the row. The door was open beneath a sign that read nature's own: pets and exotica. Nothing more exotic than rats had been behind those plywood sheets for years — rats and the decaying corpse of Ezra Pickens, my father.

The power was off, but the crime-scene unit had set up portable spotlights. I recognized the coroner, whose pinched face I would forever remember from the night my mother died. He refused to meet my eyes, which was unsurprising. There had been many difficult questions that night. From the rest, I got a few polite nods, but most of the cops, I could tell, weren't happy to see me. Nevertheless, they moved aside as Mills guided me through the dusty store to the closet at the back. My gut told me that they moved out of respect for Mills and my father more than they did for any grief they might imagine me to feel.

And just like that, there he was, ribs gleaming palely through a long rip in a shirt that I had forgotten but now remembered quite well. He looked something like a broken crucifix, with one arm outflung and his legs folded together. Most of his face lay hidden beneath what looked to be a candy striper's shirt still on its hanger, but I saw a porcelain stretch of jawbone and remembered whiskers there, pale and wet under a streetlamp on the last night I saw him alive.

I felt eyes upon me, and they pulled me away. I looked at the gathering of eager cops; some were merely curious, while others, I knew, sought their own secret satisfaction. They all wanted to see it, my face, a defense attorney's face, here in this musty place where murder was more than a case file, where the victim was flesh and blood, the smell that of family gone to dust.

I felt their eyes. I knew what they wanted, and so I turned to look again upon the almost empty clothes, the flash of bone so pale and curving. But I would give them nothing, and my body did not betray me, for which I was grateful. For what I felt was the return of a long-quiescent rage, and the certain conviction that this was the most human my father had ever appeared to me.


Excerpted from The King of Lies by John Hart. Copyright © 2006 John Hart. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The King of Lies 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 415 reviews.
excaliforniac More than 1 year ago
I can see how other reviewers might like this book. It is fairly well written, the characters are well-developed and -- important to me -- they are consistent throughout. When you finish the book, the conclusion is a believable manifestation of the characters. No question Hall will become a very popular writer. But, the main character frustrated the hell out of me. Two-thirds of the book offered in somewhat excruciating detail the ruminations of a nut case who supposedly was smart enough to get a law degree but not smart enough to keep from being totally consumed with destructive emotions and reckless impulses. I wanted to scream at the guy! I started to race through the long "thought monologues" in search of plot. I personally would have preferred less introspection by the main character and more action. That said, I will read another Hall book to see if he has some range.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is hands down the best book I have ever read. John Hart is a very talented author. His characters are so believable. He really pulls you in. You can smell the smells, you can feel 'Works' emotions and by the end you too will be cheering for him. I have found a new favorite author!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My mom started reading this novel a couple of months ago and fell in love with it and she immediately thought I would also enjoy it since I love a good thriller. Well, she was right. This novel is an absolute page-turner ... well written with a hot plot and the reading just flows. Hart really knows how to capture a reader's attention. This is by far one of the best thrillers I've read in a long time. I'm looking forward to reading his other novels.
emmi331 More than 1 year ago
This novel started off a bit slow for me, but it wasn't long before I was glued to the page. "Work" Pickens, reluctant lawyer and son of a prominent (and overbearing) attorney, doesn't seem to be living up to his potential. Despite a stunning - and social-climbing - wife and a beautiful home, he gets through his days without much enthusiasm and with the help of the bottle. Things go from dreary to dreadful when he becomes a suspect in his father's murder. He finds out in short order who his friends really are in his small North Carolina town, and is determined to cover up for his unstable sister, who he is convinced is the real killer. His overnight stay in jail before getting bailed out is enough to convince him he'd rather be dead than behind bars for the rest of his life. Often one step ahead of the ambitious police detective determined to collar and convict him, Work has to figure things out for himself - with the help of a few loyal supporters who believe in his innocence. A great story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is far and above one of the greatest Grisham type legal thrillers I have read. It was incredibly well written, the plots and the character development were out of this world
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A real page turner. First of his books that I read, Cannot wait to start another.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book,entirely unpredictable. Suspenseful and great plot twists. My 1st john hart wont be my last.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not put it down! Keeps you guessing until the end! If you like high quality mystery/suspense books, this one is for you!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the second novel that I have read by John Hart and he continues to impress me. If you liked The Last Child, you'll definitely like The King of Lies. It's a murder mystery set amongst a dysfunctional family in North Carolina. Great writing. Lots of suspense- fantastic all around.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my first John Hart book and I thouroughly enjoyed it. I would say it was a page turner but then again I was traveling when I read it so I 'm not sure if the book or the boredom of flying kept me turning pages. It is an easy read with a good story. Much better than the beach novels I often find myself with on long plane rides. I will definately look for more from this author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A very enjoyable book, tough to put it down, and great character development. I became very connected to all involved!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jackson 'Work' Pickens has a few problems. 'Work's' father, a well known,shady and power hungry lawyer with whom he has a strained relationship, turns up murdered and 'Work' is the main suspect. He has a mentally unstable sister, a social-climbing wife, a misstress, a floundering law practice, a local cop who would like to send him to death row, and very few people who believe his innocence. John Hart's novel moves fast and furious and has enough twists and turns to rival a theme park roller coaster. The tale takes place in the small southern town Sailisbury, North Carolina, and it is anything but sleepy with it's biggest crime in years engufing it. 'Work' is trying to clear himself to find out who really murdered his father and at the same time keep his fragile life together. I found it hard to believe that this was Hart's first book, because he writes with as much skill as Grisham or Patterson. His characters are believable and well crafted and the ending is sure to surprise the reader. It is the best mystery I have read in quite some time. John Hart is sure to be the next great mystery writer and I would highly reccomend reading this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I can say without hesitation that The King of Lies is simply the best novel I have ever read. I almost hope the author will stop with a work that is at worst a whisker shy of perfection. Yes it has the suspense of a good mystery novel but without resorting to anything that doesn't feel completely honest. Unfortunately, I know from growing up in a small southern town similar to the one that is the setting for this book that the nastiness the characters of 'Lies' must face is very real. You don't need to read John Hart's bio to realize that he is writing from experience. Reading this novel was like listening to a piece by Mozart. What at first seems like a few simple 'notes' evolves into a masterpiece. Even though every review I have read of this great book has so far been positive, none has yet come close to doing it justice.
harstan More than 1 year ago
North Carolina criminal defense attorney Jackson Workman ¿Work¿ Pickens has emotionally been a wreck since his mom died and hid dad Ezra vanished over a year ago. Though he has since made terrible emotional choices such as the bad marriage he is in, Work knows that he is mentally in better shape than his psychologically unable to cope sister. He buries himself in his work though he is not half as successful as an attorney as his father was.---------- Still when he has time, which seems rare, Work makes inquiries to what happened to his dad not seen in over a year. When Ezra¿s corpse surface the police consider Work as the prime suspect. However, Work knows his father bent the ethics rules of their profession and many enemies exist from his late dad¿s law practice Work plans to find who would actually commit the murder not understanding what his inquiries will bring to him and his sibling.--------- The whodunit investigation takes a back seat to the profound psychological character study of a bone tired despondent Southern attorney. Work makes the tale work as the audience follows the pressure on him from the cops, at work, his sister, the ghosts of his parents, but mostly caused by himself. The action stars slowly as the reader becomes very acquainted with the hero, but begins to accelerate once Ezra¿s body surfaces. No lie, THE KING OF LIES is a thoughtful thriller that readers will fully appreciate.----- Harriet Klausner
JerseyBoy More than 1 year ago
This was the first book I read by John Hart. It did not disappoint. I will be reading others by this author.
Jim53 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Jackson Workman "Work" Pickett is a small-town lawyer for whom nothing is going right: both his loveless marriage and his failing law practice mean almost nothing to him. A year ago, he lost both his parents in one night: his father struck his mother, killing her inadvertently, and then disappeared. Now the father's body has been found, and Work is a prime suspect. He fears that his sister killed their father and struggles to protect her without incriminating himself.The first half of Hart's first book is almost comically overwritten. It reads as if someone told him that he had to end every chapter with a reference to unspeakably horrible thoughts or fears. After he has established his characters, the pace picks up a bit, and he does a nice job of arranging events to move the story along. I particularly admired how he brought together several key characters for crucial interactions in chapter 23.I would say that the style fits the characters, but in fact the style creates and defines the characters. Most of the significant characters ar well drawn. The mystery is pretty good, with a couple of obvious candidates, but Hart does a good job of focusing Work's attention, and thus ours, in certain directions. It's more a novel about a man coming to terms with his life and sorting out what he wants.
moonshineandrosefire on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Jackson Workman Pickens - 'Work' to his friends - is an unambitious lawyer in a small Southern town. He also has some serious baggage. His mother died a year ago in a fall down the family's colonial staircase and his father, Ezra, has been missing ever since.Work is left to deal with his psychologically damaged sister, his father's legal caseload and his own rocky marriage. Power and greed make many enemies, especially for a man as cruel as Ezra Pickens, so when his body turns up almost everyone in town is considered a suspect - but only one man is charged with the murder! With time, his wife and public opinion against him, Work embarks on his toughest case yet: proving his own innocence. His investigation will uncover a web of intrigue that he couldn't have imagined - and he soon realizes that no one is above suspicion - even those he loves.I did really enjoy this book, even though, in my opinion, the story could have been wrapped up earlier. I thought it was a good plot with beautiful writing. I give it an A!
booksandbutter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. Just the right amount of suspense with twists and turns to keep you reading late into the night.
jbaker614 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Having previously read "The Last Child" by John Hart, I was expecting a much more interesting whodunit mystery in "The King of Lies". My disappointment was primarily around the characters and my overall lack of sympathy for the son ("Work") who is accused of murdering his father, Ezra Pickens. I think the storyline would have been more enjoyable had Work's sister, Jean, been the lead protagonist. Jean's character was much more complex and interesting. Nonetheless, this is an easy summer read that you may want to pack along in your beach bag for light entertainment.
CandyH on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent author. A wonderfully crafted story to keep the reader thoroughly engrossed.
Gary10 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A cut above typical detectuve novels. I may have been harder on this one because I started with his most recent, The Last Child, which I preferred. Interesting twist on the detective plot in that most of the book is about the main character trying to exonerate himself as a suspect rather than to find the real killer. A cut above a beach reach.
kelawrence on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was great - my second book from John Hart. Good story, kept you guessing, lots of twists and turns -excellent
katiefeldmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoy reading John Hart's books. This is my 2nd and he just has a special way of writing. The language and the way he describes stuff is quite different than anything I've read before.
mikedraper on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"The King of Lies" is more that a mystery. It is also a chronicle of the Pickens family.Work Pickens is a defense attorney in Rowan County, North Carolina. He's called out of court and informed that the police have found his father 's body. His father, Ezra, a powerful but disliked man, has been missing for just about two years.The last night Ezra was seen, there had been a major family incident. Certain facts about Work's sister, Jean, and her female companion, Alex, came to light. Ezra is a controlling personality and gives Jean orders about her way of life. A physical confrontation developes and when Jean's mother attempts to intervene, the results are deadly.What is left of the family's mental strength, disintergrates. Ezra takes a phone call, hurries from the house and is never seen again. Jean, suicidal to begin with, becomes more unhinged and Work becomes guilt-ridden that he hadn't acted to defend his sister or reveal to the police that his father was responsible for what happened at home.As a character, Work shows his strentghs and weaknesses and in so doing, becomes more of a real person. He is a good defender for his legal clients but is not a good husband. He doesn't love his wife and lacks the backbone to end his marriage and begin a new life with the woman he loves. The women in Work's life are not strong. His mother, his sister and his wife are all passive and have been manipulated through the story. Even his girlfriend, Vanessa, only shows occasional demonstrations that she has any gumption.The story is beautifully written and told. It will remain in the reader's memory long after the book has been placed back on the book shelf.
ccayne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Family saga of expectations, power, desire, betrayal - all the elements of dysfunction. The story starts when the body of Ezra Pickens, a well known lawyer and father of Work and Jean. Ezra had been missing for a year, having disappared the same night that his wife died after a fall down the stairs. The discovery sets in motion a series of events as all the players try to figure out who killed him and this brings up all sorts of motives. Work never married his true love Jessica and this plays out, along with the story of their meeting, against the investigation. Work's wife Barbara is a real piece of work - all about money, status and power. Good story, a compelling tale for a long drive.