Jennifer Crusie's Tell Me Lies begins in the most unexpected and unusual way, when Maddie Faraday finds a pair of black lace panties -- not hers -- under the front seat of her husband Brent’s Cadillac. Evidently Brent has started cheating on her again, or so Maddie thinks, and hopes with relief that at long last she can leave him for good. But two obstacles stand in the way – her daughter Emily, who dearly loves her father, and Maddie’s reputation as a perfect lady in the town of Frog Point. She has never done a thing to make her the target of the vicious gossips in town, headed by Maddie’s own mother. And then C.L. Sturgis, her secret first lover, zooms back into town in his flashy red Mustang and starts haunting her doorstep in an effort to locate Brent, who has become suspiciously elusive.
From the first moment C.L. and Maddie met in high-school, they struck sparks off each other. They still do when they meet again twenty years later. An enraged and reckless Maddie decides to turn the clock back and recreate those passionate moments she once shared with C.L., and she succeeds beyond her wildest dreams. But things start going downhill when she discovers scary secrets about her husband who then almost goes ballistic on her. And why is her best friend Treva so interested in bringing Brent down? Is it out of loyalty for Maddie, or does she have an ulterior motive? All hell breaks loose when the sheriff calls Maddie to tell her that Brent has been murdered. C.L. answers the phone, and Maddie becomes the prime suspect in her own husband’s murder. Quiet and observant throughout is little Emily, who knows that things are rapidly deteriorating between her parents and is helpless to do anything about it. All she wants is her parents back together, even if they never talk or joke like normal parents.
Crusie has an indubitable talent for tales filled with wit and humor. Tell Me Lies, while charming, is also deeper and more poignant than her other books. She deals with social problems like infidelity, domestic violence, divorce -- and the tragic consequences they have on the innocent children who are told nothing but lies even as their family crumbles around them. Emily tells Maddie to tell her no more lies; Crusie deftly touches on how people base their entire lives on nothing but lies that ultimately come down to nothing. Convincingly realistic characters who are charming and hateful, lively and ghoulish, good and bad, populate this novel. The murder mystery has so many suspects it leaves the reader as well as Maddie dizzy. C.L. is the typical hero; Brent is a sleazeball. Maddie’s eccentric grandmother, the only person who says nothing but the truth and whom no one believes, is a rascally and unforgettable character. Crusie always sets her stories in a small town in Ohio, along with the requisite small-town mentality where gossip is the main pastime and memories run long.