“Believe Me” opens with a prologue that both entices and frightens readers, a foreboding hint of what is to come. Lexington Hotel service workers just hate it when a luxury suite is left a mess. What were these people thinking? Employees have to clean up this mess they left behind, and it is even more annoying when there is a body.
With that, the story rewinds to five days earlier. In a first person narrative, readers meet Claire Wright, just another young professional waiting for her date. This is her story, her chronicle; things are seen through her eyes, a young actor desperate for money, needing a green card, and willing to take any role. She talks to herself, and readers listen in, “No big deal. You do this all the time… Why else would you become an actor, if not to edit reality?” She talks directly to readers; “So now you’re wondering who I actually am, and what I’m doing here in New York… This isn’t lying. This is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances. Which, as you’ll discover, is very different.”
Claire lives and breathes the theater. Her conversations are written as a script dialogue. She is, above all, always, and every minute, an actor, playing unusual roles in Theaterland.
When the police come knocking on her door, she is unprepared for what they report. Something is wrong, very wrong, and she then begins a darker, more desperate acting gig. “I know my job. And, it’s called acting. That’s my area of expertise.”
Delaney perfectly sets up the tension, slowly at first and then growing at a frantic pace. Readers watch Claire as if in the theater. It is a cat mouse drama, almost a classic Agatha Christy play. Everyone has a part to play, and everyone is a very good actor. When the final curtain falls, readers contemplate who will be coming back onstage for the final bows.
I was given a review copy of “Believe Me” by JP Delaney, Ballantine Books, and NetGalley. This thrill ride started with a real book of poems written by a real person in 1857, and it keeps readers dreading what might be next. The past is reflected in the present, and nothing is as frightening as history. It is a creepy book, about creepy people doing creepy things, and I could not read it fast enough. And always, if in doubt, it’s Constantinople.