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"Depth of Lies" by E. C. Diskin
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What makes the story even more intriguing is that the wife Dietrich buried two years ago is discovered up and walking about, calling herself Charlotte, only she wears the wedding ring he gave Lottie long ago. And she seems so like Lotte, even as she insists she isn’t his wife.
Finally, she confesses, she’s an alien who bought a new life via a dead human body. (Turns out there’s a booming alien business selling freshly dead bodies for resurrection.)
And here is where the story gets really intriguing: Charlotte has retained all of Lotte’s memories and behaviors. That’s not supposed to happen. Naturally, Dietrich & Lotte start to fall in love all over again, matters don’t go easily. There are other aliens who want to kill Charlotte because she can remember the former owner of the body. So add to the unique story-line, a wonderful, if not unique, love story, plus some truely suspenseful life and death situations.
I could not put this book down. It held me captive from start to finish.
Very highly recommended and I am now on to book two.
I can recommend this book without reservations to any one reading this short little review.
Attention the detail makes things memorable from the outset, from the arrangement of freckles on Lottie’s back to the simple but haunting image of the coffin – “a smooth, blue rectangle with silver bars running along the sides” (11). The plot arc of lovers trying to thwart the blocking figures and unite is conventional enough, but the manner in which Schmitz builds suspense gives rise to philosophical observations. In a perfectly contextualized musing on the problem of evil, Dietrich opines: “It wasn’t that people tended to defer to authority as much as people have an ability to turn off this moral code they only think defines them” (188). The idea that “moralism” is “an ambiguous and fluid concept” (189), whether you agree with it or not, is an intriguing part of the novel’s dynamic. It is a tribute to how far Schmitz stretches the genre that I’m still trying to resolve whether I’m comfortable with the moral implications of some of the novel’s scenes.
Moral knots aside, the novel does well at recreating the psychological haze of one in trauma or the twists and turns and little tricks the mind plays on itself while under pressure. The characters have their own little neuroses and defensive mechanisms accumulated over years. Dietrich must revisit his habit of “judging too quickly, assuming people were so one-dimensional” (132), as well as his long-cultivated if unconscious “belief that a person had to be perfect in order to be loved” (123). Lottie’s struggle to “decide who I am” (154) might sound like a clichéd phrase from the self-help bookshelf, but Schmitz deploys it into a context that makes it much more interesting, psychologically and philosophically. As the present conflict flushes out those hidden psychological mechanisms, the symbolic value of “resurrection” acquires more and more meanings, like ripples from a pebble dropped.
This psychological realism we get through the reflections and remembrances inside of these characters makes the flashes of wit and absurd humor, which might otherwise break the double mood of romantic longing and physical threat, quite natural. From grim jests as a response to tragedy (“I don’t think Hallmark makes a card for that,” 10) to Louisiana cookouts where the protagonists are “stuffed with barbecued meats from every mammal on the planet” (201), the humor fits in effortlessly, even if some of the male bonding humor falls flat.
Overall, if you’re absolutely averse to the conventions of romance, this may not be the book for you. If you’re accustomed to other genres – “literary fiction” or “action” or “paranormal/sci fi” – and willing to give romance a try, this seems to me an excellent choice with a wide appeal.
It had occasional issues with fluidity in the writing both within and between chapters. It was choppy at times which detracted from the story. I also thought I had skipped a page twice but I had not. Overall it was really exceptional. I have already ordered the second book in the series.
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