Heart of Lies
Leo Hoffman, the central character in this fascinating and deftly written novel, set during the years between the two World Wars, is a likeable guy. Yes, he’s a charmer capable of manipulating people. And, as it turns out, he is willing to throw in his lot with criminals if it will help him make his fortune and get him out of his job as concierge for a posh Budapest hotel following World War I. But he has an amazing talent for languages, a sweet personality, and when he falls in love, he’s so sincerely smitten we can’t help but want good things for the man. Unfortunately, by the time Leo meets the love of his life, Martha, he’s unwittingly gotten himself into an ocean’s worth of hot water. His minor role in an international counterfeiting scheme results in his being wanted throughout Europe, and he’s forced to flee to Shanghai. Once there, he has local gangsters and the invading Japanese to deal with.
But a summary of the plot of Heart of Lies can’t possibly do it justice. The writing is exquisite, wrapping the reader in another time and place. We go along for the ride because of the characters, simply yet poignantly shaped by Malcolm. Her style is crisp, clean, without forced embellishments, a pleasure to read. She builds suspense and describes dramatic, sometimes violent events convincingly and naturally. This novel was previously published as Silent Lies in 2005 and 2008. It’s easy to see why Harper picked it up for its own list. A splendid addition to the shelf of any reader who enjoys intelligent, sensitive narratives with a strong thread of intrigue.