From the USA TODAY bestselling author of The Night Olivia Fell—an “emotionally charged mystery” (Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author)—comes a thrilling new suspense novel about the insidious nature of family secrets…and their deadly potential.
If you can’t remember it, how do you prove you didn’t do it?
Eva Hansen wakes in the hospital after being struck by lightning and discovers her mother, Kat, has been murdered. Eva was found unconscious down the street. She can’t remember what happened but the police are highly suspicious of her.
Determined to clear her name, Eva heads from Seattle to London—Kat’s former home—for answers. But as she unravels her mother’s carefully held secrets, Eva soon realizes that someone doesn’t want her to know the truth. And with violent memories beginning to emerge, Eva doesn’t know who to trust. Least of all herself.
Told in alternating perspectives from Eva’s search for answers and Kat’s mysterious past, Christina McDonald has crafted another “complex, emotionally intense” (Publishers Weekly) domestic thriller. Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell’s I Found You and Karin Slaughter’s Pieces of Her, Behind Every Lie explores the complicated nature of mother-daughter relationships, family trauma, and the danger behind long-held secrets.
The thought charged at me, stark and unrelenting. Blood was everywhere. Under my fingernails. In my mouth. In my hair. It was streaked across my shirt. On the floor, it blackened and congealed, filling the air with its metallic breath. The sickly sweet scent clung to the back of my throat.
My mother was slumped on the floor in the living room, mouth gaping, brown eyes staring at nothing. A dark pool of blood seeped from a gaping wound at the base of her neck. The urgent beat of her pulse had faded to an unrelenting nothingness.
Both my hands were clamped around her throat. An emotion thudded so viciously in my chest it was painful, like searing.
“Mom!” I tried to scream.
But only a choked sob came out.
Hail clattered against the windowpanes. The wind thrashed against the house. The living room lights flickered and darkened. Fear, salty on my tongue, shot through me like an electric pulse.
Suddenly I was outside, the night sky pressing on my skin.
The burning scent of ozone scorched the fine hairs of my nostrils, mingling with the pungent scent of wet earth. Black and purple clouds roiled in the night sky. Thunder rumbled ominously. The air crackled with electricity, static lifting the fine hairs along my bare arms. Rain skidded into my scalp, licking at my face.
Tears mingled with the rain on my cheeks as I ran. I was crying so hard I could barely breathe. I skirted the perimeter of the elementary school and pounded toward the park, passing cars parked neatly along the curb. In the distance, a metal statue, the Seattle skyline just beyond.
There was a massive boom, an explosion as I drew level with the statue. Then only light was all around me, inside me, crashing against my retinas, hissing along my nerves, an explosion inside my organs.
I fell to the ground spasming, crippled with pain. Fire engulfed me from the inside, every nerve ending flayed open. I was no longer in control of my brain or body. They had cracked into a million pieces.
This reading group guide for Behind Every Lie includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Eva Hansen wakes in the hospital after being struck by lightning and discovers that her mother, Kat, has been murdered. Eva was found unconscious down the street. She can’t remember what happened, but the police are highly suspicious of her.
Determined to clear her name, Eva heads from Seattle to London—Kat’s former home—for answers. But as she unravels her mother’s carefully held secrets, Eva soon realizes that someone doesn’t want her to know the truth. And with violent memories beginning to emerge, Eva doesn’t know whom to trust. Least of all herself.
Told in alternating perspectives from Eva’s search for answers and Kat’s mysterious past, Christina McDonald’s Behind Every Lie is a “complex, emotionally intense” (Publishers Weekly) domestic thriller that explores the complicated nature of mother-daughter relationships, family trauma, and the danger behind long-held secrets
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. We know from the outset that Eva’s mother, Kat, is dead, but the author chooses to open the book with Eva and Kat at a celebratory dinner together. How would you describe their relationship based on this single interaction?
2. Detective Jackson appears fixated on Eva from the start as the prime suspect in her mother’s murder. What do you think of his investigation tactics? Do you think he is being insensitive to Eva’s recent and past trauma, or is he simply doing his job?
3. Eva describes Liam as the perfect man. Discuss the way he treats Eva after she is struck by lightning. What is your initial impression of Liam? Do you find him kind and protective or overbearing?
4. Kat and Rose’s relationship has an unorthodox beginning. Describe their different parenting tactics as seen in chapter six. Are the friends similar in any respects? With such differences, how does their relationship work?
5. We learn about Kat’s husband, Eva’s father, in one of Kat’s flashbacks. Discuss Sebastian and Eva’s relationship. Why did Kat stay with him? How is his behavior different around Eva? Why can’t Kat discuss their relationship with Rose?
6. Eva goes to dramatic lengths to remember the night her mother was murdered and to learn the truth about Kat’s past. With her innocence in question and relationships on the line, why do you think she took such huge risks? She has accepted losing memories before; what is different about this experience? Why fight so hard to get these memories back and not the others?
7. In chapter fifteen we learn more about why Eva doesn’t trust the police. How would you feel if you reported a crime and were treated as Eva was? Despite her past experience, she still tries to share what she learns with Detective Jackson. Why is she so forthcoming? Would you trust the police to get it right in this instance?
8. Everyone seems to doubt Eva’s memory loss, and with her own brother questioning her role in their mother’s death and memories gradually returning, even Eva begins to suspect herself. Before you finished the novel, how involved did you think she was in Kat’s death? Would you still want to know the truth if you were responsible?
9. Since Eva was struck by lightning, it appears that she experienced some psychological side effects. She has been moody, aggressive, and paranoid. How does her reaction when Liam tells her she’s trashed their living room fit in with these symptoms? Do you believe Liam’s version of events, since Eva can’t remember anything?
10. When Rose returns from the dead, Kat decides it is still best to keep the truth from Eva. What do you think the right thing to do is? Does Kat make this decision for Eva or for herself?
11. Discuss the differences between Eva’s relationship with Liam and her relationship with Jacob. Why does Eva finally walk away from Liam? What inspires her to tell Jacob the truth about the baby?
12. Upon Rose’s return, we learned the truth about the day the first Eva fell from the window. How might things have been different if Kat had told Sebastian this twenty years ago? Why does she choose to tell him when he finds her?
13. When Eva’s memories finally return, she learns the truth about more than just the night her mom died. What aspects of her memories shocked you most? Were you able to predict any of what unfolds by the novel’s end?
14. Discuss the new relationships Eva forms with David and Rose. Do you think her relationships with them will change the way she views the people who raised her? How will the truth about her past change her relationship with Andrew?
15. The Japanese art of kintsugi is a recurring theme in Eva’s life. How does it tie back into her discovery of the truth? Do you think understanding kintsugi will influence Eva’s healing and how she moves forward?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Eva’s whole life is turned upside down after her mom is murdered. The more she learns, the more lies she uncovers. Discuss how you would deal with these kinds of life-changing revelations. How would you process them?
2. Both Eva and Kat dealt with serious trauma in their lives. They are survivors. Discuss the way each of them handled these experiences. Describe their personalities. What does Eva learn from her mother? What have your parents taught you about surviving hardships? What have you picked up from them subconsciously?
3. Imagine that you, like Eva, have lost your memories from a critical moment in your life. Discuss what that would be like. How far would you go to get those memories back? If you knew that a traumatic experience had robbed you of those memories, would you still want to get them back?
Christina McDonald is a USA TODAY bestselling author. The Night Olivia Fell has been optioned for television by a major Hollywood studio and her second book, Behind Every Lie, is available now. Her writing has been featured in The Sunday Times (London), Dublin, USA TODAY, and Expedia. Originally from Seattle, Washington, she has an MA in Journalism from the National University of Ireland Galway, and now lives in London, England with her husband, two sons, and their dog, Tango. She’s currently working on her next novel.
"Behind Every Lie is a deep, suspenseful novel packed with family secrets. Christina McDonald has a true gift for creating characters that are so well-developed, it feels like you know them. An outstanding achievement!"
– Samantha Downing, author of the #1 International Bestseller My Lovely Wife
"In Behind Every Lie, Christina McDonald brilliantly intertwines page-turning suspense with jaw-dropping family secrets. An emotionally-charged domestic thriller that is sure to please!"
– Wendy Walker, national bestselling author of The Night Before
"A clever, tense, and absorbing novel--this tale of family secrets had me racing towards the final pages."
– Emma Rous, bestselling author of The Au Pair
"Christina McDonald follows up her smashing debut The Night Olivia Fell with another winner. McDonald starts with a bang, then builds the action steadily, a gradual unfolding of secrets and lies that will have you constantly switching alliances. Read it like I did, in one sitting and straight through to the end, because you won't want to put this one down."
– Kimberly Belle, internationally bestselling author of Dear Wife
"Christina McDonald’s Behind Every Lie is a layered, gut-wrenching domestic thriller that explores the complexities of mothers and daughters and the secrets families keep. Smart and intense, and with more than enough twists to give you whiplash, McDonald’s beautiful, emotional storytelling will leave you breathless. I don’t think I exhaled until the end."
– Jennifer Hillier, author of Jar of Hearts, ITW Award winner for Best Novel
“Christina McDonald’s Behind Every Lie is a cleverly plotted and emotionally charged page-turner about memory, trusting yourself, grieving, and letting go. Family secrets run deep in this compelling exploration of how far a mother will go to protect her child. Full of twists and turns, this is domestic suspense at its best!”
– Karen Katchur, bestselling author of River Bodies
"In Behind Every Lie, a lightning strike survivor discovers that memories are fallible, identities are fungible, and she can’t trust anyone—including herself. With nuanced and dubiously trustworthy characters, dual timelines revealing decades of secrets, and a tension-packed plot, Christina McDonald has crafted an engrossing and utterly addictive thriller. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough!"
– Kathleen Barber, author of Truth Be Told
"Addictive and emotionally resonant, Behind Every Lie is a twisty, fast-paced thriller with secrets nestled inside secrets. Nothing is as it seems in this story exploring the sorrow and strength of brokenness, and with complex characters and a relentlessly compelling plot, you’ll be unable to stop reading it—or forget it once you do."
– Megan Collins, author of The Winter Sister
"[An] intriguing suspense novel... McDonald weaves together Eva and Kat’s narratives, which span past and present, to create a compulsively readable and fast-paced yarn that explores the lingering effects of trauma and abuse as well as the complex bonds between mothers and daughters. Readers who enjoy character-driven thrillers will be pleased.”
– Publishers Weekly
"Told in alternating narratives from Eva’s traumatic life and her mother’s mysterious past, the story twists and turns with one shocking revelation after another until it threatens to careen out of control. But behind every lie there is always a reason, and there is a satisfying ending once everyone’s hand is played out.”
"Behind Every Lie is a page-turner and an entertaining read. Many readers will enjoy Eva’s breathless race of discovery and journey of survival."
Praise for The Night Olivia Fell
"The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald is a stunning thriller that instantly grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let go until the final, poignant sentence. McDonald artfully brings to the page the emotionally fraught, complex relationship between mother and daughter in this atmospheric, absorbing page-turner. The Night Olivia Fell cracked my heart into a million pieces and then slowly pieced it back together again."
– Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times bestselling author of The Weight of Silence and Not a Sound
"In Christina McDonald’s The Night Olivia Fell, Abi gets the call every mother fears: her daughter has fallen from a bridge and is brain dead...but was it an accident or a crime? McDonald reveals the answer in steady, page-turning increments, a gradual unfolding of truths and long-held secrets that culminates in a heart-wrenching resolution. A suspenseful debut that packs an emotional punch."
– Kimberly Belle, internationally bestselling author of Three Days Missing and The Marriage Lie
"I was absolutely hooked, it was such an emotional read that I was broken by the end. Heartbreaking and thrilling at the same time."
– Jenny Blackhurst, bestselling author of How I Lost You
"Beautifully written and moving with characters I felt I knew, The Night Olivia Fell is a stunning debut that kept me guessing right until the final, heartbreaking twist."
– Claire Douglas, bestselling author The Sisters, Local Girl Missing and Last Seen
"Christina McDonald's The Night Olivia Fell takes a mother's worst nightmare to a whole new level. This is an intense, twisting, heartbreaking thriller that explores in painful detail the consequences of family secrets. The reader will be riveted until the final page...and may even feel a bit of hope when all is said and done. Don't miss this one!"
– David Bell, bestselling author of Somebody's Daughter
"Christina McDonald has crafted an emotionally-charged mystery that will leave readers equally gut-wretched and gripped. The Night Olivia Fell welcomes a talented new addition to the world of domestic suspense."
– Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl and When The Lights Go Out
“[A] complex, emotionally intense first novel…Fans of twisty domestic suspense novels will be rewarded.”
– Publishers Weekly
"McDonald ratchets up the suspense with every chapter, including plenty of gasp-worthy twists and turns as Abi and Olivia’s story pushes towards its devastating conclusion. The suspense is supplemented by relationships of surprising depth and tenderness, providing balance and nuance to the story. A worthy debut from an up-and-coming domestic-suspense author; readers who enjoy mother-daughter stories in the genre should line up for this one.”
– Booklist (Starred Review)
"This book is a tearjerker, so have tissues at hand. A well-structured story of how lying corrupts from the start that will keep pages turning.”