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The King of Lies | [John Hart]

The King of Lies

John Hart creates a literary thriller that is as suspenseful as it is poignant, a riveting murder mystery layered beneath the southern drawl of a humble North Carolina lawyer. When Work Pickens finds his father murdered, the investigation pushes a repressed family history to the surface and he sees his own carefully constructed facade begin to crack.
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Publisher's Summary

John Hart creates a literary thriller that is as suspenseful as it is poignant, a riveting murder mystery layered beneath the southern drawl of a humble North Carolina lawyer. When Work Pickens finds his father murdered, the investigation pushes a repressed family history to the surface and he sees his own carefully constructed facade begin to crack.

Work's troubled sister, her combative girlfriend, his gold digging socialite wife, and an unrequited lifelong love join a cast of small town characters that create no shortage of drama in this extraordinary, fast-paced suspense novel.

Hart's mastery of prose and plot belie his newcomer status as he explores the true heart of a man. An illuminating anatomy of a murder and the ripple effect it produces within a family and a community, The King of Lies is a stunning debut.

©2006 John Hart; (P)2006 Recorded Books, LLC

What the Critics Say

  • Mystery Writers of America 2007 Edgar Nominee, Best First Novel by an American Author

"[A] stunning debut, an exceptionally deep and complex mystery thriller....Few readers will be able to resist." (Publishers Weekly)
"This is a first novel that lunges off the page, just grabs the reader by the throat and won't let go....Hart is a fine stylist, turning phrases with a panache that recalls Raymond Chandler." (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (860 )
5 star
 (233)
4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Overall
4.0 (382 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.0 (384 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Deborah shallotte, NC, United States 06-21-06
    Deborah shallotte, NC, United States 06-21-06 Member Since 2008
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    "For the Eyes Only"

    This is a beautifully-written book. I live in North Carolina about four hours from Salisbury (Sols-berry) where this story takes place. John Hart has pinned small town society right to the mat. He writes in a metaphor-rich southern cadence and really puts the reader in the moment. The reader can literally "watch" the story because it is written so completely well.

    The real gripe I have is that the company in charge of hiring a reader for this book must need a new talentscout. They made a terrible, terrible choice. Not only does the reader not have a Carolina accent, he doesn't have any kind of Southern accent at all. He reads aggressively, like a hard-nosed detective rather than a gentile southern lawyer with a near-broken spirit. I just can't believe the recorded reader missed the heart of the book so very completely.

    I would highly recommend this book as a "must read" book, in both senses of the term.

    It's a great mystery/thriller, wonderfully and achingly written, and for those readers who have lived in the south and are aware of the carved in white pillars class distinction, it is bang on the head of what that class separation is all about.

    It's a very satisfying book and one I will definitely "read" with my own eyes next time.

    I can't imagine what Recorded Books was thinking...Mickey Spillane reads Harper Lee. Sheesh.

    28 of 29 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Charlotte, NC, USA 06-28-06
    Scott Charlotte, NC, USA 06-28-06 Member Since 2014
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    "Better than a Grisham novel"

    This book is one of the best books that I've listened to in my two+ years of membership with Audible. The plot is well developed, the reader is excellent, and the story draws you in to the point that you can't put the book down. Excellent book. Highly recommended.

    19 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kelley Wilmington, NC, United States 04-03-10
    Kelley Wilmington, NC, United States 04-03-10 Member Since 2013
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    "Negitive Reviews Almost Kept Me From Buying!"

    I recently stumbled on Hart's latest book Last Child. LOVED IT TO DISTRACTION. So I went straight to Down River and though it was also fantastic, it didn't trump Last Child. This author is just getting better and better and I can't wait until his next offering.

    Despite my need for more Hart, I almost didn't buy his first book: King of Lies because of the reviews whining about the narrator.
    I was worried about all the purported lip smacking and swallowing by David Chandler.

    I am glad I took the chance. Chandler is an excellent narrator. I think the problem lies with the production company. I guarantee you that Scott Sowers and, my personal favorite, Scott Brick, smacks occasionally in the audio booth too, but state-of-the-art editing software renders such distractions a thing of the past.

    Bottom line, Chandler was pretty damn good and quite frankly, his purported "smacking" is not that bad. Ignore the negitive reviews and get this book. Just FYI. Recorded Books produced the King of Lies. Last Child was produced by McMillan Audio and Down River was offered up by Audio Renaissance . Critique the production company,not the narrator.

    23 of 25 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lorrie H 11-16-12
    Lorrie H 11-16-12
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    "What a great book!"

    Mr. Hart definitely knows how to write a good story! Hooray for all us mystery lovers. Terrific plot, fully defined characters (some to like, some to love, and some to hate) and enough twists and turns to keep me guessing. When I find myself exclaiming "Oh, no!" or some such during the narration, I am really hooked. The main character, while flawed, was engaging and very likeable. I found myself smiling with him, dismayed when he stumbled and in the end, hated to say goodbye.

    My narration standards are high. There are many books I would love to get, but I refuse to listen to what I consider a bad narrator more than once. David Chandler definitely goes on my "approved" list. I am from NC and appreciate David Chandler for not having a southern accent. The temptation for many narrators is to go over the top with the drawl, and it truly grates on my southern born and bred ears. The reading speed was excellent, and his voice is pleasant to hear. The narration never interfered with the story which, in my opinion, is the point. No regrets in using this credit!

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    paul barron Victoria, British Columbia Canada 12-08-06
    paul barron Victoria, British Columbia Canada 12-08-06 Member Since 2014
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    "King of Groans"

    When I downloaded this book, there appeared to be no reviews. Now there are 43. My web browser must have been acting up. In any case, I rushed back here to warn people off this book only to find all the other reviews and the two polarized camps. I fall into the "good plot tritely written" camp.

    I kept thinking that it's as though the author was a painter who turned out a sparkling work only to keep labouring over it until it turned to mud on the canvas. At one point, he had a good book there, perhaps in an early draft, but he worked too hard at making it clever.

    That being said, I would give the King of Lies the following rating: 4 Stars for the plot. It was intricate and compelling, and the only aspect that kept me reading it; minus 1 Star for groan-out-loud cliches and hackneyed phrasing masked as personal epiphanies and introspective wisdom; predictable, stereotypical, uni-dimentional characters: minus 1/2 Star; annoying, effete narration: minus 1/2 Star = 2 Stars.

    On the positive side, I did like the way the main character dug a big hole for himself by his seemingly benign actions, which ended up driving the tight plot. Not being from the US, let alone the South, I can't comment on the accuracy of how the class issues of North Carolina are captured, but I do think the book would have been significantly better if a reader like Will Patton or Stephen Hoye had read it. They perhaps could have turned the plodding, monotonous narration into a humid Southern story full of genteel tension -- if in fact that's in the work to begin with. It's hard to tell.

    All in all, if you value your credits skip this book and look into works by James Lee Burke or Ellmore Leonard.

    17 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Reviewer 08-28-09
    Reviewer 08-28-09
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    "Over-written and over-delivered!"

    The plot's fine, but the writing is so staggeringly melodramatic--with long, cliched descriptions and forced language--and made worse by the overly dramatic reading! Wanted to scream several times. Stuck with it just to find out whether my own prediction of "whodunnit" turned out correct.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Byron Tallahassee, FL, United States 06-22-13
    Byron Tallahassee, FL, United States 06-22-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Did you read John Hart's Debut Novel? You Should!"

    I was first introduced to Hart about three years ago with his book The Last Child, and having already read his third and fourth books, I finally got around to reading this debut book. And we are now 4 for 4.

    This novel about a lawyer and his family is much more about dysfunctional family relationships than it is about anything having to do with the law, so it is more of a murder mystery than a legal genre. But there is a fair amount of insight into both the process that law enforcement uses to focus on suspects and on the strategy that one might use if they wanted to present themselves as an alternative suspect, diverting attention from a family member who may be the one who is truly guilty.

    What I enjoyed most about this book was the author's method of back-filling the story. You meet the characters and then, through one device or another, you eventually get to find out the story about that character. The entire book is told from the perspective of the main character, "Work" Pickens, who could best be described as a pompous, arrogant, and only marginally sympathetic, jerk. My negative reaction to him was heightened by his self-absorbed perspective in the story. In his eyes, almost everyone in the story is a villain, and I would have to assume, that had I been in the story, he would not have liked me either.

    Enough about the book... go ahead and read it. But I want to further compliment Hart. In his first 4 books, he has written four very different books. The common element: they all end well. The highest praise I can give Hart is that I am satisfied with his endings. Not saying I necessarily "liked" the endings, but that I feel like he finishes the book by resolving the issues he has created through the course of the book. I can enjoy a book that does not finish well, but it sure is more satisfying to feel like the author has successfully taken you on a journey that arrived at the intended destination. I can't wait for book #5.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brian W. Mason, NH, USA 08-11-06
    Brian W. Mason, NH, USA 08-11-06
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    "Decent story, lousy narrator"

    The quality of the story kept me listening to this book, in spite of the grating narration. It is truly pitiful that the producers could not have found someone with a semblance of a Southern accent to narrate this story set in Salisbury, NC. Besides that, I find the narrator's approach to the story unsuitable for the protagonist. It just doesn't fit the character.

    The protagonist himself is a pathetic loser, unable to live his own life, unable to even think lucidly. Frankly, he's a jerk.

    In spite of these criticisms, the book is well worth a listen.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Book and Movie Lover Austin 07-25-06
    Book and Movie Lover Austin 07-25-06 Member Since 2015
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    "Loved it - Kept me riveted"

    I don't give many books five stars. Four stars maybe but this was a great listen. I really hope to be able to listen to many more books by this author. I read some of the other reviews (after listening, fortunately) and don't really get the complaints about the narrator who I thought was very good. I'm a big fan of whodunnits and love it when the author can keep you guessing up until the end. I have to admit I had a hunch who had done it toward the end but had not figured out all of the details and the unraveling at the end was very enjoyable after listening to such a long book. Not complaining about the length though. When a book is good you want it to be nice and long. And this one had enough plot twists and turns to keep it moving and keep my interest. Great listen!!!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S.C. Providence, RI United States 02-15-07
    S.C. Providence, RI United States 02-15-07 Member Since 2004
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    "Write more books, please!"

    I absolutely loved this book. It was so well written and suspenseful. The end was a complete surprise and the epilogue pulled together everything I wanted to know about the characters.

    I hope this author writes another book soon. I'll be first in line to purchase it!

    Oh, and the reader was excellent, too.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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