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Small Town Secrets in The Lies They Tell By Gillian French

April 24, 2018

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Every summer, sleepy Tenney’s Harbour has an influx of wealthy tourists that come for the holidays. Pearl Haskins and her father are part of the workforce that makes it all possible – caretakers, wait staff and cleaners.

Locals are dubbed the ‘Townies’ by the ‘Summer Families’ and tension between the two runs high but for Pearl and her father there is a much greater tragedy lurking beneath the surface. Last summer the Garrison family compound was engulfed in fire, tragically leaving only one survivor, Tristan Garrison the eldest son. Pearl’s father was working as the caretaker that night.

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Words | Gillian French

Take it from me—secrets run deep in a small town, and lies hit twice as hard.

I live in rural Maine, where the cliché of “everybody knows everybody” is a daily reality. Love it or hate it, it’s a climate that can sometimes breed resentment, fueling unfair reputations with idle gossip. Add the “outtastater” population—thirty-six-million tourists pour into Maine annually, many returning to seaside vacation homes for only two months out of the year—and you have a very disparate social stratum operating in a small area. A powder keg, even. I found myself wondering—what if somebody lit a match? Who wouldn’t be affected by the aftermath in a place where everyone’s lives are so tightly interwoven?

That’s the question posed by THE LIES THEY TELL, my dark, twisty YA mystery which follows eighteen-year-old Pearl Haskins, a tough, hardworking townie who infiltrates a group of privileged boys to solve the murder of a family of summer people whose home was destroyed by fire, and clear her father of blame. Pearl thinks she’s the ultimate outsider looking in—until she learns that isolation and deceit exist on both sides of the line.

I’ve worked in beachside communities like the fictional Tenney’s Harbor, and one thing that always struck me was how different the wealthy teens seemed from the local kids. Fashionable and aloof, they acted as though we locals were merely props, present to wait tables, mow lawns, and complete their New England vacation experience before returning to “real life.” In my previous novels, I’d explored the secrets we townies keep from each other, what lies behind the familiar face. THE LIES THEY TELL allowed me to add classism to the mix, to look inside some of those beautiful colonial summer homes where the other half live. Would Pearl discover vulnerabilities, similarities that she never knew existed? Or would the truth be even darker, more sinister than she could’ve guessed?

I hope you’ll follow Pearl on her journey.

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Gillian French’s 
debut novel, Grit, was an Indie Next List pick and received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews and ALA Booklist. She holds a BA in English from the University of Maine and lives in Hermon, Maine, with her husband and sons. To learn more about Gillian, visit her online at


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