The White Lie, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


On a hot summer's afternoon, Ursula Salter runs sobbing from the loch on her parents' Scottish estate and confesses, distraught, that she has killed Michael, her 19-year old-nephew. But what really happened? No body can be found, and Ursula's story is full of contradictions.

In order to protect her, the Salters come up with another version of events, a decision that some of them will come to regret. Years later, at a family gathering, a witness speaks up and the web of deceit begins to unravel.

What is the white lie? Only one person knows the whole truth. Narrating from beyond the grave, Michael takes us to key moments in the past, looping back and back until - finally - we see what he sees.


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Review by

Did he die or just run away (and then die)? He's not saying.

Review by

The White Lie is a story of a family's inability to be truthful with itself. It is about repressed emotion, appearances, conventionality and that most British of things, embarassment. Michael, the narrator, admits to being dead from the start, and he tells his tale slowly, hesitantly, picking through the motives and emotions of his family for clues. Although there is a mystery - the shadows and secrets around the real events of Michael's death - this is not a whodunnit in the conventional sense. It is possible to work out at least some of the truth of it quite early on; that isn't what keeps the reader engaged. Rather, it is the manner of the telling, the rich detail of observation, and the oppressive atmosphere of the family in its ancestral place that make this an enthralling read. If you love a good murder mystery, it could be a disappointment: this is a book that reveals the hidden, pale underside of human motives, and it does that superbly well.

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