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The King of Lies Paperback – February 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Hart's stunning debut, an exceptionally deep and complex mystery thriller, compares favorably to the best of Scott Turow. Jackson Workman Pickens, whom most people call "Work," is a struggling North Carolina criminal defense attorney. Work has wrestled with inner demons for most of his life, especially after the death of his mother and the disappearance of his wealthy father, Ezra Pickens, a highly successful lawyer who took him into his practice. Trapped in a loveless marriage and haunted by poor emotional choices and his sister's psychological trauma, Work finds himself under suspicion when his father's corpse surfaces more than a year after Ezra was last seen alive. Work's quest for the truth behind his father's demise opens old wounds and forces him to face the consequences of his own decisions. Few readers will be able to resist devouring this tour-de-force in one or two sittings—or clamoring for more John Hart.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Jackson Workman Pickens, or Work, has always lived in the shadow of his larger-than-life father, a respected attorney. His life as he knows it–the law practice he shares with his father, the beautiful home and socialite wife–is a tribute to Ezra Pickens's ideas of success. When Ezra is found shot to death, Work is ambivalent about helping the police find the killer, afraid that the path will lead to his younger sister, Jean. Only he and Jean know how abusive their father was and how his actions ultimately led to their mother's death. Work's reticence only serves to reinforce the lead detective's belief that he is the guilty party, especially since he stands to inherit over $15 million. As Work becomes more enmeshed in a web of circumstantial evidence, he learns that his sister's partner, Alexandria, was convicted of killing her own abusive father, and he begins to fear for his sister's safety as well as his own. Hart has crafted a mystery with fully developed characters and a fast-paced and intelligent plot. He not only gives readers plenty of action and suspense, but also delves unflinchingly into the dynamics of family relationships. Teens who enjoy Grisham and Turow will want to be among the first to read this exciting new voice in the mystery genre.–Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; Reprint edition (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312677375
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312677374
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (277 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #202,438 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Hart is the author of three New York Times bestsellers, The King of Lies, Down River and The Last Child. The only author in history to win the best novel Edgar Award for consecutive novels, John has also won the Barry Award and England's Steel Dagger Award for best thriller of the year. His books have been translated into twenty-nine languages and can be found in over fifty countries. A former criminal defense attorney, John has also worked as a banker, stockbroker, and apprentice helicopter mechanic. A husband and father of two, he spends his time in North Carolina and Virginia.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 49 people found the following review helpful By TaxVictim on May 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
A small-town lawyer's midlife crisis is sparked by the discovery of the dead body of his overbearing father. Although told in the first person, the tale gives good background and many interesting stories about other characters. In his search for his father's killer, the narrator uncovers a lot of dirt, human suffering, and neglect in his small town, all while trying to juggle his own affairs and keep himself out of jail as the prime suspect. Our first-person narrator has a good literary style while not sounding too cute about it (unlike some other famous authors' attempts at first-person writing).

It would seem very difficult to write a good first-person thriller, giving the reader all of the necessary clues to solve the case while still making us go "D'oh, I should have known!" at the end. Kudos to the author for pulling it off.
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103 of 120 people found the following review helpful By Gary Griffiths VINE VOICE on July 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ezra Pickens, North Carolina backwoods lawyer extraordinaire and hardass of Olympian proportions, has been missing for eighteen months and feared dead. When his skeletal reamins are finally found in an abandoned mall, there is no doubt he was murdered. Lawyer son Jackson Workman Pickens, or "Work", stumbles around in some feeble attempt to protect sister Jean, who he believes the perp, and soon finds himself the prime suspect.

John Hart's debut reads like two different novels. In the first half of the novel, I found "Work" simply annoying. I doubt that Hart wanted to make his protagonist such a wimp, but about 100 pages of Work's whining about his childhood, his mean rich daddy, and his pathetic life in general was just grinding me down. OK, so he's not had the model life, and as a result his drinking, adultery, and general shiftlessness is justified. We got all that - let's move on.

And remarkably, Hart does just that. Once past the bitch wife, the gay sister and her wacko girlfriend, and the cop with a grudge, Hart spins a genuinely suspenseful mystery and legal drama, reminiscent of Scott Turow in his early days. The plot thickens, unfolds, takes a couple of entertainingly ugly diversions, and finishes with a John Grisham flourish. Hart has literary skills, no doubt about it, and he spices up his drama with tales of child abuse and murder definitely not for the feint of heart. While off to a slow start, Hart finishes strong, and is definitely a name to watch.
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64 of 77 people found the following review helpful By N. Gargano VINE VOICE on June 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book so much. The main character, a man as flawed as the rest of us, had me enthralled from the first page. By the middle of the book, I found myself unable to put it down, reading page after page as fast as I could. I have to admit, I kind of had the whole thing figured out, but that didn't take away the pleasure of reading this book to the end. A little twist here, a liitle twist there, great reading.

I look forward to your next book Mr. Hart.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Christopher M. Reece on May 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. I can say without hesitation that The King of Lies is simply the best novel I have ever read. I almost hope the author will stop with a work that is at worst a whisker shy of perfection.

Yes it has the suspense of a good mystery novel but without resorting to anything that doesn't feel completely honest. Unfortunately, I know from growing up in a small southern town similar to the one that is the setting for this book that the nastiness the characters of "Lies" must face is very real. You don't need to read John Hart's bio to realize that he is writing from experience. Reading this novel was like listening to a piece by Mozart. What at first seems like a few simple "notes" evolves into a masterpiece. Even though every review I have read of this great book has so far been positive, none has yet come close to doing it justice.
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34 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Jeff VINE VOICE on November 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really expected to like this book. The dust jacket is covered with praise of the highest order, in many cases from fine practioneers of the writing craft.

So what went wrong?

As my title explains, this book uses too much foreboding and foreshadowing. Not since Thomas Cook have I seen someone who starts with such melodrama, then layers on globs of vague foreboding, and then lards over his product with thick gobs of foreshadowing.

It makes the first half of the book very hard to get through. Despite on of the endorsements claiming that this book will be read at 1-2 sittings, I had to stop half way through and read books by Richard Stark and Max Collins to get a head of steam back up for finishing The King of Lies.

The second thing that went wrong is that I realized a third of the way through the book who did it. The basic plot is well thought out, and most authors could keep the reader in suspense until the book was almost done. But the heavy handedness of the foreshadowing betrays Hart's villian chapters too early, and the strongest asset of the book, its plot, is rendered moot by the premature set of clues that give the guilty party away.

Several other reviewers have commented that the two halves of the book are almost like two different books. I agree emphatically.

The protagonist, who seems to be in mammoth self-destruct mode for the first half of the book suddenly develops a spine in the second half and eventually solves the mystery of his father's death. The first half is a 1 star, the second a 3 to 4.

Hart shows some real promise in this debut. The plot is quite well constructed. A few of the side characters are drawn with unusual depth. The legal aspects of the book ring very true.
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