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The Promise of a Lie    by Howard Roughan order for
Promise of a Lie
by Howard Roughan
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Apparently Phillip Margolin read Howard Roughan's Promise of a Lie in one day. Given its short chapters with cliffhanger endings, this is not hard to believe. What is harder to accept are the events that main character, psychologist Dr. David Remler, faces throughout the novel. It seems that David is an established psychologist/author who achieved quasi-famous status after giving the key expert testimony in a high-profile murder case. David is still trying to recover from his wife's death three years before, which makes him vulnerable to events that follow.

A patient's move to Hollywood to become a screenwriter leaves a hole in Dr. Remler's appointment schedule. Enter Sam Kent, an attractive woman seeking counseling for murderous feelings towards her husband. Despite ethical concerns, David falls for Sam's seduction. A few nights after they get together, Sam calls David to tell him that she has killed her husband, hinting that she has overdosed on sleeping pills. Not thinking clearly, David rushes to her aid. The cops arrive to find David and the dead husband.

It should come as no surprise that the psychologist is arrested and tried for the murder of Conrad Birch. David and his lawyers realize that he has been framed, but by whom? It seems that the patient who called herself Sam Kent is not the real Samantha Kent, widow of Conrad Birch. Once David is arrested, 'Sam Kent', the 'Mystery Patient', is nowhere to be found. Will the psychologist be writing his next bestseller from inside a jail cell?

Though Roughan creates a very likeable character in David, my concern for his plight was reduced by annoyance at the stupidity that got him into the mess in the first place. David occasionally mentions how his arrest and trial process differ from those seen in TV cop and courtroom dramas. If he is so familiar with these shows, why did he make such an amateur mistake (not calling 911) immediately after Sam's call about the murder? And does being tried for murder teach him a lesson? No, he does the same thing again. Perhaps this fallibility is what makes him so likeable, so human. And though I thought he made dumb mistakes, I was still rooting for David throughout the story.

Howard Roughan's The Promise of a Lie, gives the reader something to think about: how easily one can be manipulated by just one lie. This mystery will get people talking. Being such a quick read with short chapters, it is a perfect companion for the subway ride to work or for a little 'me time' after a long week. It's an intriguing and engaging work, and who knows, maybe someone will take advice from the ending and turn it into a movie.

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