Home » “Listen for the Lie” by Amy Tintera – The Ghost that Never Sleeps

“Listen for the Lie” by Amy Tintera – The Ghost that Never Sleeps

“Listen for the Lie” by Amy Tintera (Header image)

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Short Summary

Amy Tintera has, until now, been largely known for writing superb young adult novels, many of which have become bestsellers and earned her prizes. With her latest novel, Listen for the Lie, she decided to leave her comfort zone and go into adult territory by penning a murder mystery. It follows a young woman, Lucy, who is forced to uncover the truth behind her best friend’s murder. The catch is that everyone, including Lucy herself, believe she’s the one responsible for it.

Amy Tintera Tarnishes the Golden Girls

Though friendships tend to come and go as people enter and leave through the revolving door of our lives, some of them endure the test of time and can become truly meaningful. In some cases, they can even lead to bonds as strong, if not moreso than those found in families. In Listen for the Lie by Amy Tintera, we see the effect such bonds can have on a young Lucy, even if they extend into the afterlife.

The story takes place in a small Texas town without anything really special about it; life tends to move more slowly and peacefully than it does in the big city. For many people, the beating heart of the town lies in Lucy and Savvy, the two golden girls who look like they’ll one day have the world in the palms of their hands.

Naturally, none of this is meant to be when that fateful night changes everything. Lucy is found wandering the streets in a state of confusion, covered in blood. It doesn’t take too long for the police to identify the blood as Savvy’s, and that she was murdered. Slowly but surely, they realize there are no viable suspects in sight… none but Lucy herself, and rumours begin spreading like wildfire.

Years later, Lucy still hasn’t even come close to really recovering from the trauma, especially since she also believes herself to be guilty of the crime. Nevertheless, her memory of the night has been completely erased, and she is doing her best to start a new life in Los Angeles. However, her grandma draws her right back to the town on the eve of her eightieth birthday, just when a resourceful true crime podcast host takes an interest in her case and becomes determined to unearth the truth.

When Lucy comes back to the town she must first face all her former friends and family, all those who knew her during her previous life. However, that pales in comparison with the task before her: to finally uncover the truth of what happened to Savvy, no matter where the arrows might point. Lucy knows she’ll never be able to rest until she finds the truth, and fortunately for her, it’s still somewhere out there, barely within reach, waiting to see the light of day.

The Fringes of Texas in Listen for the Lie

Before even diving into the plot itself, I think we ought to look at the characterization and setting in Listen for the Lie, largely because it relies on those two points to offer a poignant, effective and memorable experience. This absolutely does not mean the plot is simply a vehicle for us to meet people and go to places, but I’ll speak more on that later.

To begin with, we have our main character, Lucy. She is definitely a modern protagonist, being outspoken, proficient in the use of sarcasm, with just enough idiosyncrasies to get the point across that her mental state isn’t entirely normal. While in lesser-skilled hands such a character can become grating, Amy Tintera has become quite adept at writing these sorts of personas, which I must assume is a result of her experience with young adult novels.

Lucy also goes through her own character realistic arc from start to finish, which I find is a bit of a lost art among modern young writers, intent on creating perfect characters from the get-go, leaving no room for growth nor regression. All in all, I didn’t think it initially, but I find she was the perfect fit for the story, adding a but of clever humour to contrast with the darkness surrounding her.

Speaking of what’s surrounding her, the denizens of the town are also a bit of a highlight, most of them being just suspicious enough that you can’t count them out. Owen, the podcast host, might just be the only one above suspicion, but even then, it’s hard to shake the sense there’s something more insidious about his nature… or at least, that was how I felt about him.

Not every single person in the town is “out there”, so-to-speak, with a few normal people thrown in for contrast. You certainly won’t remember the names of all the characters, but a few will definitely stick around in your mind. Most of them have something going for them that’ll make you curious to learn more, especially when it feels like they might have some connection to Savvy.

Speaking of Savvy, while she essentially begins the novel already dead, she is no less of an important character than the living. Not only is the story of her fate the driving force behind the whole novel, but it turns out she was also a person filled with secrets, and not unlike Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks, her presence is felt on virtually every page. In some ways, I’d argue she’s as much of a protagonist as Lucy, at least if you’re willing to think about it unconventionally.

Drizzle of Revelations

Despite the tremendous emphasis placed on characterization, it’s all done in a concise and straightforward manner, often showing instead of telling, letting characters’ words and actions demonstrate who they are. This means that its core, the novel retains the classic structure of a mystery thriller, defined by short chapters and a quick-moving storyline.

Listen for the Lie takes virtually no time to get started, and barring a few moments of respite here and there, we keep on barrelling forward from start to finish. Amy Tintera knows how to keep her audience hooked and interested, constantly teasing us with a drizzle of small revelations, slowly adding up to form a big picture I couldn’t wait to see.

Just when you think you’ve learned something that’ll take you closer to the truth, you quickly realize it actually opens up more questions than it answers, pulling you deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole, mirroring Lucy’s own descent. The author even manages to sometimes make us doubt whether or not Lucy really did kill her, even though we, the readers, kind of assume her innocence to be a given going into it.

I’ve briefly mentioned before that Lucy adds a bit of humour here and there for some much-needed contrast with the darker themes, and I think Amy Tintera really nailed the fusion of the two opposing elements. She never loses sight of the fact that Listen for the Lie is a murder mystery thriller for adults, using the humour sparsely enough not to turn it into an outright comedy. Ultimately, we get the best balance of both worlds.

Finally, one thing I’d like to mention is that usually, when crime authors have regular civilians leading investigations, they tend to portray them as unrealistically courageous, cunning and resourceful, to the point where they might as well be part of the Special Forces. I found that Amy Tintera did a fairly good job of keeping things on a realistic level, and there were few occasions where I felt like I had to suspend my disbelief. The characters’ actions always felt logical, or, at the very least, justifiable within the context of the story.

352Celadon BooksMarch 5, 2024978-1250880314

The Final Verdict

Listen for the Lie by Amy Tintera is, so far, one of the best murder mystery thrillers I’ve had the pleasure of reading this year. It’s the complete package, offering well-developed and compelling characters, a riveting mystery that keeps you coveting the truth, and the perfect mix of clever humour thrown in for good measure.

If you’re looking for a page-turner of a mystery you can easily binge over the course of a weekend, then I dare say you’ll unquestionably love everything this novel has to offer. I myself definitely plan on following Tintera‘s works from now on.

Amy Tintera (Author)

Amy Tintera

Amy Tintera is an American author best-known for writing a number of bestselling young adult novels, such as Reboot, The Ruined series and The Q, which have earned her a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Selection. She has also dipped her toes into more mature waters recently with her 2024 mystery novel, Listen for the Lie, already making waves mere days after its publication.
David Ben Efraim (Page Image)

David Ben Efraim (Reviewer)

David Ben Efraim is a book reviewer living in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and co-owner of Bookwormex, as well as the Quick Book Reviews blog, along with Yakov Ben Efraim. With a love for literature reaching across all genres (except romance), he has embarked on the quest to share its wonders with the world by helping people find their way to books which truly speak to them, whether they be modern sensations or relics from a bygone era.

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