Claire Wright is struggling to make ends meet. As a young British actress trying to make a name for herself in New York, Claire thought her fortunes were changing when she was accepted into the prestigious Actors Studio program, but with the terms of her student visa barring her from most legitimate employment, Claire is finding it harder and harder to cover the costs of living in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
That’s when Claire meets Marcie Matthews. An acting agent of the hardened New York variety, Marcie lands Claire a clandestine, cash-in-hand job as something of an undercover agent. To prove whether or not they really are willing to cheat, Claire will be seducing men who are suspected by their wives of being unfaithful.
It’s not the greatest job by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s good for Claire’s acting skills as well as her finances, and everything is going smoothly until Claire is hired to seduce Professor Patrick Fogler. It’s a different kind of encounter to those Claire is used to – in short, Patrick doesn’t take her bait – but Claire reports back to Mrs Fogler nonetheless, and puts the anticlimactic assignment out of her mind.
Claire is in acting class when the police find her the next day. Patrick’s wife has been brutally murdered in her hotel room, and Patrick is a prime suspect. Shaken, Claire tells the police all about their encounter, but her involvement with the case isn’t destined to end there.
Months later, the police get back in contact with Claire. They’re having difficulty proving Patrick is the killer, and they want her to use her acting skills to lure him into confessing. After the police threaten to report her to Immigration Services for working without proper documentation, Claire reluctantly agrees to the assignment and so begins the most thrilling and dangerous role of her life.
Believe Me has an interesting backstory. Published in its first form in 2001, author JP Delaney felt he’d ‘thrown away an interesting idea by not writing it well enough’, and reworked and re-plotted until Believe Me was born. He should have no such writing-related qualms about this novel: superbly written and perfectly paced, Believe Me is an absolute page-turner.
If you’re a fan of thrillers that really make you think, Believe Me will be right up your alley. The line between what’s real and what’s a performance are blurred so skilfully that Delaney keeps us guessing right up until the book’s heart-stopping conclusion, and the script-style formatting employed in parts only adds to this. Combined with the characters and setting – our heroine is a femme fatale in a seedy Big Apple – the script formatting also gives the book a film noir feel, which helps build the atmosphere of suspicion and suspense.
A gold star read.
About the author
JP Delaney is a pseudonym for a writer who has previously written bestselling fiction under other names. Delaney’s debut psychological thriller, the New York Times bestseller The Girl Before, has been optioned for film by Academy Award winners Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment.