Deceit by James Siegel (Derailed, Detour) is a mystery novel that is simply okay. This is a definite case of wait for the paperback and even then it may be one of those mysteries that lingers on your nightstand for a while. James Siegel has a good story idea in Deceit but it gets tied in the knots of the strings that hold it together. Interestingly enough, the abridged audiobook version of Deceit is better.

Tom Valle is a journalist who was caught making up stories for a big newspaper in New York and is now lucky to be working for a small town newspaper in Littleton, California. On the day Valle is sent by his editor to cover the 100th birthday of a local woman he is also sent to cover a car crash on the highway. This is where the mystery begins in Deceit by James Siegel: the man who died in the crash had a false identity and the survivor does not exist. Valle also finds someone trying to steal something from the basement of the home he is renting and discovers very few people are interested in digging up memories about how the neighboring town, Littleton Flats, was flattened out of existence when the dam burst fifty years ago. Somehow, all these things are connected and you can throw in government conspiracy to boot.

Although Deceit starts off with Tom Valle holed up in a hotel room writing his story as his last will and testament, something that will make most mystery readers want to know more, James Siegel does not manage to keep the reader motivated to find out what happens next. That his main character is not particularly interesting or original and a bit of a whiner does not help.

There are also too many extraneous bits sprinkled here and there and even willing suspension of disbelief will not make up for the coincidence that some of the stories Tom Valle once made up now find themselves echoed in the real mystery he is trying to unveil. This is probably why I felt the audio book version of Deceit was more interesting than the novel itself though even then I really felt like skipping a few tracks from time to time.

Without wanting to play spoiler, even the ending to Deceit will leave a mystery fan on his or her appetite.

James Siegel
Warner Books 2006
369 pages

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