Book review: Black Lies by Mercedes Mercier

Sunday, June 4, 2023 Permalink

Black Lies by Mercedes Mercier is the second in the series featuring psychologist Laura Fleming who works with inmates at Westmead prison. It kicks off two years after the events of White Noise and things seem to have settled down in Laura’s life after a history of pain killer addiction created problems with her ex-husband and daughter.

I should mention that it won’t matter if you’ve not read the first in the series as there’s minimal reference to it here.

Book review: Black Lies by Mercedes MercierBlack Lies
by Mercedes Mercier
Series: Dr. Laura Fleming #2
Published by HarperCollins - AU, HarperCollins Publishers Australia
on 07/06/2023
Genres: Crime Fiction, Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 1460761707
Pages: 320

Only a handful of inmates in Westmead Prison have committed crimes so atrocious that they've been locked away for life, and for fifteen years, convicted murderer Tomas Kovak has refused to disclose where he hid the body of his victim, a vulnerable young woman.

When Kovak is diagnosed with terminal cancer, intense pressure is put on Dr Laura Fleming, criminal psychologist, to find the location of Kovak's victim so her grieving family can find some sort of closure.

Laura has to use all of her training, skills and instinct to form a connection with the cold, remorseless killer, a man who has refused any psychological assessment since the day he confessed to the murder.

With every session, Laura becomes more and more convinced that something about Kovak's story doesn't ring true, and as his health rapidly deteriorates, the pressure on Laura ramps up. She becomes increasingly desperate, resorting to unconventional methods to find out what she can from the secretive man.

As she inches closer to the truth, she discovers some people will stop at nothing to keep the past hidden ... and the people Laura cares most about are fair game.

Laura’s a likeable lead and I’m enjoying this series. Mercier works (or did work) in the criminal justice system so obviously knows it well and it’s evident in the way she’s able to talk about routine prison operations and prison culture.

What interests me the most in these books is some of the stuff Laura gets up to. There’s no question she bends the rules and her boss seems to (now) appreciate she gets results because of her occasionally unorthodox methods. But there’s also a line she seems to cross, putting herself in danger again and again. And I have to admit the sometimes-overly-anal-about-ethics part of me finds myself questioning her actions.

Here she tracks down the perpetrator in a prison beating, looks up his personal details in prison records, gets information in relation to his partner on the outside, including her phone number and address and then goes to see her.

She doesn’t even seem to think it’s problematic and justifies it as wanting to help a client but in my mind she’s crossed so many boundaries I don’t know where to start. Of course, it’s fiction and for all I know that stuff happens all of the time.

But… practicalities and dodgy ethics aside, this is again a well paced thriller.

Kovak isn’t at all what Laura expects and she soon believes he’s innocent of the charges, though can’t understand why he’d confess to a murder he didn’t commit. We readers are also suspicious because Mercier puts us in the head of the killer – who we slowly realise is not behind bars and therefore of threat to Laura – even though (they tell us) she doesn’t fit the profile of his usual victims.

There was less of a focus on the diagnostic side of things in this outing, it’s more about Laura’s investigation and pulling at loosely linked threads and I enjoyed that element.

I liked the way this ultimately plays out. I also enjoyed where Laura ends up – personally and professionally – and Mercier left me looking forward to the next book in this series.

Black Lies by Mercedes Mercier will be published in Australia by Harper Collins on 7 June 2023.


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