The Lies I Told Cover

Mary Burton’s THE LIES I TOLD (August 2, 2022) was nominated by the 2023 International Thriller Writers for Best Paperback Original.

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For a woman obsessed and a killer in her shadow, remembering the past becomes a mind game in a novel of psychological suspense by New York Times bestselling author Mary Burton.

Twin sisters Marisa and Clare Stockton were sixteen when Clare’s body was found in Virginia’s James River. No arrests were made. Fourteen years later, Marisa’s friends and dedicated career as a photographer help her to cope with the open wound of the past. But Marisa still feels the hurt—and the unsolved murder isn’t the only thing haunting her.

A recent car crash has erased ten days of Marisa’s memories—a black hole leading up to the accident that’s left her disoriented. Every text and phone call from that crucial missing time has vanished, along with her phone. A photograph she took of the river has disappeared. A new neighbor Marisa believes she knows introduces himself as if he were a stranger. And there’s the growing fear that her near-fatal accident was no accident at all. As dreams of Clare and nightmares of the crash begin to converge, so do two disturbing puzzles fourteen years apart.

Putting the pieces together could be fatal. As she struggles to remember everything, Marisa closes in on a killer—without realizing that he’s already closed in on her.

The Lies I Told Excerpt

The Lies I Told Excerpt


Friday, January 7, 2022
Richmond, Virginia

The dead were always watching. And they did speak to us, though we rarely noticed.

Normally, the dead didn’t bother me, but the night was cold, dark, and raining, and I was anxious as I gripped a coiled art show flyer and got out of the Uber. A light drizzle fell, and an uneasiness had piggybacked onto my bones with the cold. I was tempted to go home and ignore you. Sane men don’t chase the dead.

But when it comes to you, I’m not reasonable—never have been. So I returned to J.J.’s Pub, a corner, brick building with tall display windows and crimson-red front doors. Inside the vestibule, I unrolled the handbill, coiled tighter than a clock spring, and confirmed that I’d not lost my mind. You were still staring, smiling.

Your red hair swooped around your shoulders like a curtain and framed a face as pale as ivory. Once you had reminded me of an Irish sprite, plucked straight out of Dublin, but now I saw you were Persephone, back from the underworld.

Your gaze held me, reached out, and the longer I studied the ironic humor swimming in those sapphire eyes, the more I remembered our intimate history and shared losses.

A rational mind wouldn’t be lured by the dead or revisit a dangerous past. Turn, leave, and slam the door shut on yesterday.

But this pull between us transcends life and death. And this time I was not going to repeat old mistakes. The past doesn’t have to equal the future. Eyes forward.

I pushed through the bar’s doors, chased in by cold air that lingered at my heels, and shook off raindrops dripping from my jacket. The sounds of piped jazz horns mingled with warmth, laughter, and the smells of beer and french fries. I wasn’t here for the art, food, ambience, or company. Just for you. I needed to see if you were really you. Honestly, I hoped you weren’t, that it was a mistake. I’d spent too many years imagining your face, your smile, the way your eyes closed forever so long ago. I was afraid seeing a knockoff version would only taint my memories. I hoped whoever you were, you’d be ugly, fat, and easy to forget.

The bar was divided into two sections: the main room filled with round café tables and then, off to the side, a sort of annex

There was no one in the main room, but the smaller room held at least a dozen people, and laughter and conversation drifted from it.

J.J.’s Pub’s back room, the gallery tonight, was certainly not Met worthy. A lesser artist might have turned down the space and waited for a better opportunity. But not you. You wanted the world to see the images that rattled in your mind and haunted me.

Outside the room was a sign that read Exhibit. Your picture was not on it. Disappointed, I wondered whether the dead were playing tricks with me again. They’d done this so often that I usually recognized their trickery. I should have just left, but I was still too curious. Please be old and gray. The young and youthful version of you was enshrined in my memory, and I wanted to keep it that way.

A sane man . . .
I brushed the last of the raindrops off my coat and moved toward the room. The space was small, with a low ceiling pitted with pot lights spilling pools of light onto a black-and-white tiled floor. There were no small tables in this space, and the chairs rimmed one wall. This setup gave any visitor a clear view of two dozen black-and-white pictures hanging on the walls, ghosted by the faint impressions of artwork that had hung here before.
On a round table by the door was another flyer, featuring several more images from your show. A makeshift catalog of sorts. The photos were moody, and the shades of gray captured the jagged rocks of the James River. A fast current splashed ragged, jutting boulders, and the combined effect suggested trouble and violence.

The last memory I held of you was on that rocky shoreline, and it still warmed me. You were laughing, a bit drunk, wild eyed, and begging me to kiss you. I still dream of pressing your body against the warm hood of my car on that cold day. Your body was so responsive, eager, desperate almost.

A laugh rose above the din of conversation, and it jerked me back to now. I looked over, and I saw you standing with your back to the wall as you talked to two men. Your smile was as bright as I remembered. Your hair remained a tumble of red curls, and a hint of freckles still sprinkled your nose. A black V-neck blouse dipped between full breasts and skimmed a flat belly before vanishing into faded jeans hugging narrow hips.
I stared, wondering whether you were real. The dead are clever and can play with a man’s mind. They don’t care about feelings or the living’s need to get on with their lives. It’s jealousy, I suppose: they can’t live, so neither can you.

But as you moved among the living, it was clear they all saw you. They talked to you, laughed, smiled. You weren’t a figment of my imagination. You were very real. Perfect.

Tightness clutched my chest as I twisted the rolled flyer into a tighter spiral. I felt suddenly both thrilled and sorry I had come. My grainy memories, replayed too often, were now faded and lackluster. Suddenly they wouldn’t do anymore. Seeing you in the flesh had made them obsolete.

I’d never expected to see you again, beyond dreams and fantasies. And yet here you were, flesh and blood, twenty feet away. My system heated as my thoughts raced and collided. An overload was coming. Never a good thing. I pivoted toward the door.

Outside, I unfurled the paper and looked at the grainy image of your face. I’d thought I had never forgotten one detail about you. But now I saw time had degraded my memory. Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz had jumped from black and white to Technicolor.

The Lies I Told Reviews

“Grabbed my attention!”

Robin (Goodreads)

“Another brilliant Mary Burton book!” Gabrielle (Goodreads)

“You won’t be able to put it down!” Sara (Goodreads)