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4.6 out of 5 stars
Where the Truth Lies: A Novel
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Rupert Holmes is a storyteller at heart. He's told stories through popular songs (love it or hate it, but "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" is a 3-minute story), television (the lovely "Remember WENN"), stage (the funny and suspenseful "Accomplice," as well as "The Mystery of Edwin Drood") and now tackles the novel.
"Where the Truth Lies" is a satisfying page-turner with terrific period detail and well-drawn characters. The main character, a young woman named O'Connor (she never shares her first name), is smart and competent, and if she's a little devious sometimes, it's well justified by the behavior of everyone around her.
It's hard to say much about the plot without giving away too much. Rupert Holmes is a master of sneaky plot twists, and it would be criminal to leak them to someone who hasn't read the book. ("Accomplice," his Edgar award-winning play, was similarly twisty.)
But in a nutshell, O'Connor is investigating Lanny Morris and Vince Collins, a former comedy duo (think Martin and Lewis) with a shared skeleton in the closet: twenty years earlier, a young woman was found dead in their hotel suite. The crime was never solved, and now O'Connor is writing a book about Collins with the promise that the truth will finally be exposed.
All of this takes place against the backdrop of the entertainment world in the 1970s, a rich environment that Holmes, as a young singer-songwriter, probably experienced for himself in much the same way as his heroine. O'Connor is the outsider, the guest, taken to wondrous places she could never go on her own.
Holmes' writing is funny and well-paced, and completely entertaining. He describes his settings so well, it feels as if we're there (especially the scenes that take place in Disneyland ... and could I be more jealous of O'Connor in those scenes?)
Songs, plays, TV shows, novels ... regardless of the form, I hope we'll see many more stories from Rupert Holmes.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Okay, the guy who wrote this excellent debut novel also happens to be the same guy who did the deliciously cheesy "Pina Colada Song." Get over it. Rupert Holmes is an impressive writer and apparently one of those supremely talented Renaissance types who can do everything well -- write, compose, sing, etc. The book is clever, suspenseful, laugh out loud funny, and the kind of book that sucks you in from the beginning and makes you want to neglect everything else in your life until you finish every page. What more could you want in a mystery novel?
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I was NOT surprised that I enjoyed this book. After all, the author was the creator and head writer for the superb--and lately lamented--REMEMBER WENN television show on AMC. Mr. Holmes succeeds in mastering yet another field with this novel. (He's won a Grammy, several Tonys and an Edgar for his stageplay, ACCOMPLICE.) With dead-on observations and insights concerning the 70s, he has penned a thoroughly entrancing yet intriguing mystery, populated with an extraordinary cast of characters who jump off the pages and into your imagination and heart.
No one quite knows why a famous comedy team broke up at the height of their success and went their separate ways. A young journalist who is determined to write the definitive book about the team, discovers that both men are attractive as well as attentive. But which one--the singer with the killer voice or the comedian with the killer smile--is a real killer?
It's not often that a book (especially a first book) excels on all levels: wry observational narrative, delicious period and location details, clever, sparkling dialogue, unique insight into the dynamics and dissolution of a strong partnership, and of course, a truly inspired plot. I found it to be the best--the most entertaining and most memorable book I've read in a very long time.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2003
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Having long been a fan of Rupert Holmes' music (yes, I liked "Escape," but much preferred the musicality of "Second Saxophone" and "Times Square & The Old School") as well as his much-celebrated television show, "Remember Wenn" and his award-winning musicals, I waited, with great anticipation, for the late June 2003 release of his first novel, WHERE THE TRUTH LIES. I sincerely hoped that someone who was so incredibly diversified could enter and triumph in yet another literary genre. To say that I was not disappointed would be putting it mildly. Holmes' novel has such rich, round characters - characters who quickly become real people in the lives of interested readers.
I have to admit that, as an English teacher for thirty-four years, I often have to limit what I read for pleasure. As a result, I developed a system of passing up a book if I wasn't intrigued by the first sentence. In WHERE THE TRUTH LIES, my imagination was instantly captured by the introductory, "In the seventies, I had three unrelated lunches with three different men, each of whom might have done A Terrible Thing." Who could read that and not want to go further to learn about O'Connor, the young, female journalist who quickly becomes experienced, the comedy team of Vince and Lanny, whose humor soon becomes dark and ominous, and their connections with a lightly-veiled Mafia? And just what was this "terrible thing?"
I had to know!
The fascinating things about this novel, however, are the complicated twists the plot takes. One can read the first half and be convinced that one knows the outcome, only to go a little further and realize that nothing could be further from the truth. Only in the last thirty pages does the reader learn, "Where The Truth Lies."
Holmes is, indeed, a master story-teller. His mystery is ripe with rich humor that often had me laughing out loud. However, this writer does not depend on mystery and humor alone; he delves into the lives of even the minor characters so deeply that the reader can truly empathize with them. This work also contains one of the most beautiful, touching similies I have ever seen on paper.
What is, perhaps, the most amazing to me is how a male baby-boomer can write so effectively in the persona of a young female journalist and make this character so incredibly believable, touching, and enjoyable.
Hopefully, this is only the first of several Rupert Holmes' novels because having only one from such a gifted and talented author would be a tremendous loss to the world of readers.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
With its ironic and ambiguous title, this whodunit sets new standards for well developed, fast-paced writing, with complex mysteries within mysteries, and a setting which comes vibrantly alive both in time and place. Set in 1970s Hollywood, "a place where dirt gets a paint job," the story focuses on showbiz stars Lanny Morris and Vince Collins, partners in a hugely successful act, and once best friends, who have not spoken in thirteen years. The Collins/Morris breakup occurred shortly after a beautiful, red-haired woman was found drowned in a bathtub in their hotel room while they were doing a telethon, and narrator K. O'Connor, a brash and well-endowed journalist who is planning to write a biography of Vince Collins, believes that this death is at the root of their breakup.

As O'Connor investigates the victim, interviews Collins, meets with Morris and his attorneys (since Morris plans to write his own story), and flies from Hollywood to New York and Florida, author Holmes incorporates spot-on period detail to recreate the roiling world of high profile performers and the intensity of their high stakes lives. The uninhibited O'Connor will do just about anything to get close to her subjects, and her wryly cynical voice keeps the reader entertained with the story's shifts back and forth in time and location. Her willingness to flout convention and her refusal to become rattled by the escalating tension and threats to her safety provide humor at the same time that they show her to be smart and resourceful.

As one may guess from the title, truth and lies sometimes overlap, and surprise after surprise unfolds for the reader as O'Connor finds herself making assumptions, being proved wrong, making new assumptions based on her discoveries, and finding those wrong, too. None of the characters are quite who they seem to be, and as Holmes's witty and lightning-fast dialogue reveals surprises, his background as a writer for stage and television and his mastery of pacing are obvious.

One of the best mysteries in recent years, the story is beautifully crafted and filled with characters who seem realistic, despite their Hollywood facades and glitzy lives. Twists and turns occur throughout the book, not just at the conclusion, as Holmes alternates relatively quiet scenes with those full of action. Two "dinner scenes," each of which could compete with the famous banquet/seduction scene from 'Tom Jones,' add life and color, and the drug-taking and the uninhibited and sometimes graphic sex seem consistent with the lifestyles of the Hollywood stars and the casual values of biographer O'Connor. A masterfully executed mystery, filled with wit and excitement. n Mary Whipple
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I was so curious to read Rupert Holmes first novel being a child of the seventies and hearing "The Pina Collada Song" repeatedly, as well as being a big fan of the musical "The Mystery of Edwin Drood." It's a fantastic novel. Set in the entertainment business in the seventies, it's the story of a young journalist writing a tell-all novel about one half of a comedy team ala Martin & Lewis. K.O'Connor is sexy, very funny, and whip smart. She unfolds her story in a first person prose that through much of the book will have you laughing out loud. But at the heart of the novel is a murder mystery the boys might have been involved in which is what O'Connor really is digging for. What unwinds is unpredictable, fun, and completely surprising. I look forward to whatever this man writes next.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
First off, you're not likely to find a book that is as much fun to read as this one. I found myself wanting to crawl into bed early each night so that I could re-visit the story I missed from the night before. Rupert Holmes is clearly a gifted storyteller. He draws you into the lives of these morally-bankrupt characters in such a way that you vicariously share in each and every one of their inappropriate, dangerous, or short-sighted excursions. I will never think of Disneyland quite the same again; in fact many Disney characters will seem so provocative from now on! I found myself laughing out loud and saying things like, "Oh no way!" as I read by myself -- and I never do that! I knew after reading 100 pages or so that I just had to pick up his other book "Swing" because I wanted to read more of what this man can do. I highly recommend this book, though I warn those out their who are easily shocked by detailed sex scenes, choose something else. Sex is a key component of this novel. Accept it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Having gotten through a semester's worth of "must-read" books, I was only too happy to sit down and read this sophisticated and intelligent romp of a whodunit. A delicious first novel by Rupert Holmes, Where the Truth Lies is cleverly absorbing and massively entertaining. I couldn't put it down.
The book is written in the first person, through the eyes and words of a witty, and quixotic, wisecracking journalist named O'Connor - who never takes herself too seriously as she works to find out what lies behind the breakup of the showbiz team of singer Vince Collins and comic Lanny Morris. I felt like I was her best friend -privy to all of the detailed secrets that only the closest of friends can share.
The world of glitzy 70's L.A. and New York are laid before us as we go with O'Connor in search of where the truth lies. From her first dry vermouth on the rocks (with a twist of course), O'Connor takes us on an intoxicating thrill ride filled with mystery, wry humor, sumptuously described repasts and tantalizing, titillating sex. It's a ride that only a 26-year-old woman living in the 70's could take and of course, we are with her every step of the way.
O'Connor, who is determined to deliver a top-notch story on Vince Collins, finds herself drawn into a mystery that both men thought was buried in the deep, dark past of their 50's act.
The unexpected turns that this novel takes are staggering - and just when you think you have it figured out - something else happens to convince you otherwise. O'Connor, along with us, thinks she has a handle on both men, but instead finds herself being pushed and pulled along in a heady confusion of lies, half-truths, lust and glamour.
But there is a depth of character to her that belies the 70's Cosmo mantra of "Fun, fearless, female." She has a heart, and this comes through in her desire to provide solace and comfort to the mother of the murdered woman.
The satisfying conclusion is a lot like coming to the end of an exhilarating and heart-stopping ride at Disneyland (where some of the wilder moments of the novel are set) - well worth the trip! Come along for the ride - you absolutely won't regret it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Do you like wordplay, cool places, intriguing characters--oh, and a nice juicy mystery to go along with all of them? Then this is the book for you. K. O'Connor (K. for Kathleen? Katherine? Kerry? The only mystery left unsolved is her first name), smart young journalist with a talent for interviewing celebrities, has a plum assignment dropped in her lap: an in-depth interview of Vince Collins, still popular older pop singer and movie actor. Vince and his onetime partner, comedian Lanny Morris, have a particular skeleton in their closet--or perhaps I should say their hotel bathroom, a place where, years earlier, a young woman's corpse was discovered. Needless to say, the guys had flawless alibis, but the incident appeared to have led to the breakup of their partnership. Now Vince's interview contract gives O'Connor much latitude, and she's determined to ask him The Question about The Body. But no sooner has O'Connor found out Lanny Morris is planning to write his own book about the incident than she accidentally meets him on a flight to New York...and then things really start to get complicated.
Rupert Holmes' penchant for clever wordplay and descriptions, so evident in his playwright work, music, and in the series REMEMBER WENN, is in full throttle here. Along with fascinating descriptions of things like the Warner Brothers studio tour, the hidden restaurant at Disneyland, and backstage at a Mets game and at a telethon--not to mention the pitfalls that go with the perks of being a celebrity, O'Connor's deductions, fears, discoveries, and delights-oh, and betrayals--unfold in a lively narrative that contains more twists than an old-fashioned cruller. One of the best chapters is her memorable interview with the deceased woman's mother, which is quite chilling. One advisory: even if you're reading this book on a full stomach, there are so many great restaurants described it will have you longing for a good dinner somewhere! Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Rupert Holmes's debut novel, WHERE THE TRUTH LIES, happily traps its readers in a delicious devil's snare concocted from the most basic and sturdy of ingredients: wit, glamor, sex, pathos - plus truth and lies of course, not to mention the minor matter of a murder or two.
As the novel begins, the heroine and narrator - a young 1970s-era journalist styling herself "K. O'Connor" - cements a book deal with matinee idol Vince Collins, best known as the former comedy partner of comedian Lanny Morris. (Echoes of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis are unavoidable, and indeed are not avoided.) O'Connor professes great interest in all of Collins's exploits, but really has a much narrower focus in mind: the unsolved murder of Maureen O'Flaherty, who drowned in the bathtub of the comedians' hotel suite in 1959. Collins and Morris went their separate ways after the incident, and have not spoken since. Indeed, Morris is writing his own version of the tale, and he actively professes disinterest in O'Connor's endeavors. But when the attractive reporter unexpectedly finds herself on a plane with Morris, he proves anything but disinterested in her...
As the story progresses, O'Connor emerges as a very liberated descendant of Nora Charles - brilliant but occasionally scatterbrained, aware of her own foibles even as they ensnare her. In her, Holmes captures beautifully the mental state of a young and talented professional wanting to be seen as such, even as her own enthusiasm leads to counterproductive and reckless behavior. At first, the comedy duo seem shallow by comparison - a suave crooner partnered with a simian lunatic, both possessed of unspeakably large libidos - but Holmes slowly transforms the two into human beings, with sometimes startling results.
WHERE THE TRUTH LIES was reportedly inspired by Holmes's own experiences as a songwriter in Hollywood during the 1970s. For those of us who were not there to see it, his vivid descriptions encapsulate an era whose crazed, over-the-top decadence has only become hilarious in retrospect. Holmes's witty and literate prose - occasionally so loaded with jokes that many passages would work well as comic monologues - descends from an even earlier era; comparisons to S.J. Perelman and Ben Hecht are not out of place.
The mystery itself is old-fashioned in the best sense of the term, paying homage to the masters of the genre (a key narrative device seems inspired by Agatha Christie's FIVE LITTLE PIGS) even as the prose style veers in an entirely different direction. If one element of the solution is perhaps not as unexpected as it might once have seemed, the whole nonetheless forms quite a confection. (How many mystery novels have you read where even the solution is funny?)
In short: WHERE THE TRUTH LIES is a splendid and sidesplitting choice for a summer's day. (Don't start reading it at night. You'll be up till dawn.)
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