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Never Lie
(Review, Summary & Spoilers)

By Freida McFadden



Book review and synopsis for Never Lie by Freida McFadden, a fast-paced mystery-thriller about a couple stranded in the house of a psychotherapist who famously disappeared three years ago.

Synopsis

In Never Lie by Freida McFadden, Tricia and Ethan are a young couple who ends up stranded at an open house during a blizzard.

They soon realize the house belongs to a woman who famously disappeared three years ago. Dr. Adrienne Hale was a psychotherapist who had just released a bestselling pop psychology book when she was never seen again.

Then, Tricia discovers a hidden room in the house, revealing a trove of tapes from Dr. Hale' s psychotherapy practice. Tricia has secrets of her own, but she also wonders if the truth of what happened to Dr. Hale can be found somewhere among these recordings...

(The Full Plot Summary is also available, below)

Full Plot Summary

Ending & Explanations
See the Questions, Ending and Explanations
Chapter-by-Chapter Summary
See the Chapter-by-Chapter Summary of Never Lie
Quick Plot Summary

Three-paragraph version: Tricia and Ethan, a young couple, get stranded at an open house during a snowstorm. The house belongs to psychotherapist Dr. Adrienne Hale, who famously disappeared three years ago, just after the release of her pop psychology bestseller, The Anatomy of Fear. The book features one of her patients, "PL", whose friends and fiancé were stabbed at a cabin. Tricia finds a hidden room full of cassette tapes of her sessions with Adriene's patients. Through the tapes and flashbacks, we learn the Adrienne was being blackmailed by a patient, "EJ", after she tried to terminate their sessions. He had a video of her slashing someone's tires, and he forced her to continue their sessions and escalated to other demands. Adrienne's boyfriend, Luke, broke into EJ's place to delete the incriminating video, but EJ recorded footage of that as well.

In present day, Tricia and Ethan find a dead body under the floorboards, and they discover that Luke has been staying in the house. Through flashbacks, it's revealed that Adrienne figured out that PL was the one who killed her friends and fiancé (because her fiancé was cheating with her best friend). Adrienne then used that information to force PL to help her kill EJ, hiding him under the floorboards. PL turns out to be Tricia (P is for Patricia). After EJ's death, Tricia confronted and killed Adrienne out of paranoia that Adrienne would get them caught. Tricia has now returned to this house in order to dispose of EJ's body (because she found out it was being sold and was worried it would be discovered).

It's then revealed that Ethan is the son of one of Adrienne's other patients, "GW", who died a few years ago from falling down a flight of stairs. Dr. Hale had told Tricia about it and about how GW's son had claimed a hefty insurance payout. Tricia had then engineered a meeting with Ethan, which is how they met. In present day, Tricia confronts Ethan about his mother's death, and he admits to killing her for the money. Tricia then admits to her own homicides. Ethan tells Tricia that they'll figure this out together. They end up killing Luke, burying Luke and EJ's bodies, and they buy the house and start a family together.


(The book switches between Tricia's present day point of view, Adrienne's flashbacks from the past and clips from Adrienne's therapy tapes.)

In Chapters 1 - 9, Tricia and Ethan, a young couple married for six months, arrive at an open house at an out-of-the-way location in a snowstorm. They use a spare key to get into the house and see that the house is beautiful but everything is dusty. They realize that the house belongs to Dr. Adrienne Hale, who famously disappeared three years agon just one week after the release of her latest pop psychology bestseller, The Anatomy of Fear. The book is about overcoming traumatic events and heavily features a patient "PL" whose friends and fiancé were stabbed at a cabin.

Tricia suspects someone else has been in the house recently when she hears noises, sees a light on, finds a footprint and there's food in the fridge. But Ethan dismisses all of it as stuff their realtor Judy must've left there. Tricia also discovers a hidden room full of thousands of cassette tapes from Adrienne's psychotherapy practice, which she suspects the police never found. She doesn't tell Ethan because she knows he would disapprove of her listening to them, but she's curious and wonders if she can find clues to her disappearance in those tapes.

In Chapters 10 - 27, through flashbacks to Adrienne's point of view and the tapes, the book reveals that Adrienne was trying to terminate her relationship with a narcissistic personality referred to "EJ" on her tapes. EJ does not take it well and stalks her until he catches her slashing someone's tires in anger after they steal her parking spot. He then uses the tapes to blackmail Adrienne into resuming their sessions. EJ talks about how there's no point in getting a job because his parents will probably die soon anyway and leave him a lot of money. Meanwhile, Adrienne meets a man, Luke, who she begins to fall for.

In present day, Tricia listens to the tapes. She also reveals a secret she's been hiding to Ethan -- that she's pregnant. She's worried about how he'll react, but he's delighted. Ethan is wealthy and reassures Tricia that she doesn't need to work and that he'll take care of her. Tricia continues to listen to tapes, but becomes increasingly sure there is someone else in the house when she finds a newly laundered sleeping bag and pillow in the otherwise dusty attic.

In Chapters 28 - 44, the book reveals that EJ eventually escalates to demanding more frequent sessions and even forcing Adrienne to prescribe him medication. Adrienne finally asks Luke to help her wipe the video from EJ's phone and home computer by drugging EJ to temporarily get access to his phone and keys. Adrienne hopes the matter is concluded, but soon EJ lets Adrienne know that not only does he still have the video, he also now has footage of Luke breaking into his home.

In present day, Tricia and Ethan find a corpse underneath the floorboards of Adrienne's office. Soon, they find someone in the house and Tricia realizes that it's Luke.

In Chapters 45 - 52, it's then revealed that Adrienne's patient PL is actually Tricia, with the "P" standing for Patricia. Also, Adrienne had at some point figured out that PL was actually the one who killed her friends and fiancé at that cabin (because her fiancé had been cheating on her with her best friend). Adrienne then used that information to blackmail Tricia into helping her kill EJ, whose body she hid under the floorboards.

However, Tricia had eventually gotten worried that Adrienne wasn't going to be able to keep the secret of EJ's death. So, Tricia killed Adrienne and disposed of the body.

In Chapters 53 - the Epilogue, the book explains that Tricia ended up returning to this house because she found out it was on sale and she knew EJ's body was still in here and could incriminate her. She came back to dispose of it.

Meanwhile, in present day, Tricia finds Ethan buring some tapes of sessions with a patient, GW, who died a few years ago from falling down a flight of stairs. GW is Ethan's mother. Tricia had learned from Dr. Hale about GW's death and she'd learned that GW's son, Ethan, had claimed a hefty insurance payment. Tricia had then purposely engineered a meeting with the now-wealthy Ethan, which is how they met.

In present day, Tricia confronts Ethan about the truth of his mother's death, and Ethan admits to killing her for the money. Tricia then tells him all about her homicides. Ethan thinks and then tells her that they can figure this out together. Tricia and Ethan then kill Luke and dispose of both Luke and EJ's bodies. They buy the house.

The book ends with them living at the house and raising a family.

For more detail, see the full Chapter-by-Chapter Summary.

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Book Review

Never Lie by Freida McFadden came out a while ago, back in late 2022, but I’ve been binging a bunch of her thrillers lately so I’m just reading it now.

In Never Lie, a young couple, Trisha and Ethan, go to an open house in a snowstorm and end up stranded in an extravagant house that doesn’t seem to have been occupied for years. They quickly extrapolate that the house once belonged to a Dr. Adrienne Hale, a psychotherapist known for her pop psychology books, who disappeared three years ago, just one week after the release of her last bestseller. Trisha then discovers a room full of cassette tapes from Adrienne’s therapy sessions and she wonders if she can learn more about her disappearance by listening to the tapes…

McFadden’s thrillers are very fast moving and generally unburdened by fancy prose or even character development. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing for this genre.

I kind of like that they’re dependably straight-forward mystery-thrillers when I’m in the mood for something like that — page-turners from start to finish with an interesting premise and a couple of plot twists thrown in. I’ve found myself just tearing through these and reading them as quick palate-cleansers for the last couple of weeks.

The premise of Never Lie is easy to get into — a mysterious, high-profile disappearance and a room full of tapes with the potential to hold the key to what really happened, all wrapped up in a large mysterious house. And the story unfurls itself at a satisfyingly rapid pace.

Some Criticisms?

Let’s be honest, the writing here is pretty whatever. This book is not winning any literary awards ever. I wasn’t hung up on it.

I think the bigger issue is that this book requires a bit of suspension of disbelief about some stuff. The excuses for why characters are doing what they’re doing feel a little flimsy, and it stretches the bounds of what seems reasonable even more as the story nears its conclusion.

For example, one character insists that there’s someone else in the house and the other character keeps dismissing their concerns as being silly even when there’s pretty overwhelming evidence. At some point, it’s not clear if he’s willfully dense and that’s some type of clue or if it’s just uneven plotting.

Also (without giving anything away), there’s a blackmail situation that seems a little far-fetched. Like, the blackmail content involved seems extremely mild, and it doesn’t seem like it should be that much of a motivating factor. I was able to suspend my disbelief for a while, but at some point the character being blackmailed gets so dramatic about such a nothingburger that the story started to lose me a little.

There’s just a lot of stuff where, in order to make the plot work, certain characters had to choose the dumbest possible way to handle things. I went with it for a while, but at some point the book started feeling nonsensical.

Read it or Skip it?

Never Lie is a very quick, page-turner mystery-thriller, but despite the strong premise, the actual mystery is kind of a disappointment. The story working out really relies on characters making increasingly nonsensical decisions and at some point the book just starts feeling a little too silly.

I was disappointed in this book. I started off really enthusiastic about it, and I thought the premise was so promising. But the story goes off the rails as the mystery unravels, especially towards the end. The ending is certainly unexpected, but in a somewhat ridiculous way.

I think if you’re someone who doesn’t mind suspending your disbelief in books, then you might still enjoy this. But if you generally prefer stuff that’s more grounded in reality, I would recommend skipping this one.

I thought this book was still okay, and at least it went by really quickly. If you’re considering reading this, I’d say start with McFadden’s novel The Housemaid if you haven’t read that already. I also think The Teacher is better than this one — while the premise of The Teacher is wonkier, the actual mystery unfolds in a more satisfying manner.

See Never Lie on Amazon.

Never Lie Audiobook Review

Narrator: Leslie Howard
Length: 7 hours 20 minutes

I listened to about half of this audiobook, and I thought it was fine and easy to follow.

Hear a sample of Never Lie audiobook on Libro.fm.

Ending & Explanations

See the Questions, Ending & Explanations for Never Lie

Book Excerpt

Read the first pages of Never Lie



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