- Title: Truth is Relative
- Author: J.J. Lyon
- Series: Truth Inducer Mysteries
- Paperback: 316 pages
- Publisher: Gem Cache Publishing; 1 edition (July 26, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0990351203
- FTC, FYI: I received a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Anthony Blackwell’s “gift” compels people to confess their deepest secrets. It corrupts his relationships, derails his career and drives him toward eviction—until he becomes Anthony Bishop, private investigator. His first case drops him into a deadly family drama that will save him financially, if it doesn’t kill him first.
I knew that I was going to love this story when I first read the back blurb and it described Anthony Blackwell’s “gift” that compels people to confess their deepest secrets. What a great twist for a main character! I have to admit that my favorite parts of the book were when Anthony had his little chats with people and they were spilling all kinds of thoughts and feelings to him. Some are downright funny, where others are kind of creepy; this is a murder mystery after all.
There are two stories intertwined in Truth is Relative. One story concerns Anthony and his family, and the other concerns the attractive Danielle, her cousin Aria who is engaged to Danielle’s former fiance and his father Dennis. The mystery in the story is compelling and keeps the story moving until the shocking end where the killer is revealed. I really like Anthony, and hope that J.J. Lyon writes more stories with this P.I. and his “gift” that makes others gab if they want to or not.
“I love the premise of this book, it’s like PI Morrow meets Liar Liar.”
“This book reminded me of the stone movies Tom Selleck was in. It has the rough feeling of the west but is written smoothly so that it’s hard to stop reading. I’m hoping there is/will be more.” Stefanie Andersen - Logan, UT
“A very interesting and innovative plot.” Billie H – Lamesa, TX
The Monday before Thanksgiving, my car disappeared. Or it might have been late Sunday night. The day was half over before I even looked outside. Instead I focused on an ugly painting until I realized I was hungry. I was out of bread and low on groceries in general. I cleaned my brushes, grabbed my keys, opened the front door, and stared at gray asphalt where my Mazda used to be. A few dead cottonwood leaves swirled there before the wind swept them off.
I didn’t bother calling the police. My car hadn’t been stolen, it had been repossessed.
My cell phone buzzed. It was my brother, Bart. “Hey,” I said.
“Hey, Bro. How’s life in the Big City?” Bart wasn’t being ironic. Compared to our hometown of Jersey, Cheyenne was enormous.
“It’s good!” I stepped back into Sam’s Café and tried to think of something else to say. Something that would back up my lie.
“Great. When are you coming for Thanksgiving?” Bart asked.
My brain scrambled, too busy to pay attention. I didn’t need a car. The abandoned café was a great studio, with north-facing windows and indirect natural light. My work happened right at home.
My work was also stacked against the walls, waiting for a gallery to accept it. The art that was already in a gallery had hung there for months. I needed a day job. A car would help.
“What about Thanksgiving?”
“I don’t know yet.”
“Whaddaya mean? I thought you were your own boss.”
“Yeah, but I’m pretty …” I glanced out at the empty parking place. “It’s hard to get away right now.”
Bart was quiet, and when he spoke again he sounded unusually hesitant. “So how are you really?”
“Fine. I’m doing great.”
“Yeah, okay. You know what you need? A night out.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Yes, you do. I can tell you’re depressed.”
“I’m not depressed.”
“C’mon, Tony. Think of everything we could learn about the beautiful women of Cheyenne.” Bart could afford to be fascinated by my new ability. He didn’t have to live with it.
“I’ve got to go get some groceries,” I said.
“Fine.” Bart sounded annoyed, but he didn’t argue. “Fine, I’ll talk to you later.”
I turned away from the café window and walked to my bedroom, which was actually a converted storage area in the back of the café. A walk-in cooler had once taken up most of the space, but it had been ripped out and sold the last time the place went out of business. There was room for a twin bed and a battered dresser from Goodwill Industries. I pulled my wallet from the top drawer and retrieved my old bike from the back of the building.
It was a cold ride to the store. Cheyenne’s legendary wind pushed against my side and cut across my hands. I’d forgotten my gloves. I zipped my jacket all the way up, stuffed my hands in my pockets, and kept pedaling, glad I had at least one useful talent. God gave me excellent balance.
My mind whirled as fast as my bike wheels, tallying my other useful abilities. I was decent at hanging Sheetrock, and I could tape and texture as long as the customer didn’t mind it a little antique and heavy. As for roofs, I’d done it all—patch, replace, steel, asphalt. If I had a truck I could rent myself out as a handyman. I could work in blissful isolation most of the time.
A gust of wind broadsided me. I went down in slow motion, shifted my weight, scuffed on the pavement with my feet. In the end my shoulder hit the road before I could pull my hands out of my pockets. The car behind me screeched to a stop and a woman got out. “Are you all right?” she asked.
“Fine,” I said. The front bike wheel spun uselessly. My arm hurt. I scrambled out from under the bike, trying to place the woman’s voice.
Recognition registered in my gut as much as my ears. I knew that voice. The last time I had heard it, its tone had been much angrier. “Hi, Heather,” I said.
“What are you doing out here in the cold on a bike? I heard you drove a hot Mazda.”
“Not today,” I said.
“I heard you got fired, too. Twice.”
Technically I only got fired once. The other time I quit before the ax fell.
Heather wasn’t in my fan club, but she wasn’t being rude, either. She was just under my influence. After thirty seconds in close proximity, people began confessing to me. I didn’t know why this began happening. For the first year or so, I didn’t realize it was happening at all. But as soon as my “gift” began manifesting itself, my life started rolling down a rocky slope.
“I almost drove by when you fell.” She brushed dirt from my sleeve. “I knew it was you and I don’t want to talk to you, but it looked bad.”
“It’s all right.” I stepped away from her brushing hand.
She didn’t leave. “Can I give you a ride? Please say no. I don’t want to be in a car alone with you, pretending I don’t remember how you—”
“No thanks.” I gripped the handlebars and pressed my weight on them a little.
She nodded. “You wouldn’t accept help from me anyway. Bart, maybe, but not me.”
“I don’t need it. I’ll see you later, okay?”
I rode the rest of the way to Safeway with my hands on the handlebars. My fingers numbed in the wind. The pain in my arm faded to a dull ache, and I shook off the encounter with my ex. In the store parking lot, the lights shone in the murky daylight. It was early afternoon, but the thick clouds fooled the light sensors into thinking it was dusk. I went inside the store and found some sandwich meat on sale and a package of rubbery cheese slices. I picked up some day-old wheat bread and waited in line behind a thin, fortyish man with a few days’ beard. He wore dirty jeans and a sweatshirt stained with what looked like motor oil. After thirty seconds, he turned to me.
“My wife left me this morning,” he said.
I nodded. If I didn’t acknowledge him, he would only repeat himself. Louder.
“She put her ring in my hand and said, ‘I’ve got to go to work.’ I said, ‘Can we talk about this?’ and she said, ‘It’s too late.’”
I nodded again.
“How can it be too late? Twelve years, and she can’t even talk about it? Isn’t twelve years worth a little discussion before you throw your husband in the garbage?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“I know I didn’t pay attention before. I mean, when she was going around all mopey and resentful. I just figured she’d work it out. And sometimes she tried to tell me something and I’d change the subject, ’cause I could only hear that her life sucked so many times—”
“They’re ready to ring you up,” I said, nodding to the sales clerk.
The man stepped forward. I stepped back. So far, ten feet looked like the magic distance. More than that, and most people were out of the range of my gift. Less than that and I was in the confessor’s bubble.
“Are you in line?” a young mother asked behind me.
“Yeah. I’m just, uh …” I glanced at the man, who was now deep into an emotional conversation with the salesclerk. Apparently I wasn’t far enough away yet. I took another step back. “That guy needs a little space.”
The mother peered at him. “Is he crying?”
“I think so.”
She shrugged. “It figures. I get it all day from these two.” She nodded to her cart. A baby in the front clung to the push bar and gummed it with a slobbery mouth. A curly-haired toddler sat in the main basket, his fist buried in a box of cereal. “Maybe they never get over it. ‘I need this,’ ‘I want that.’”
“And then their dad comes home and he needs dinner and he wants sex. Everybody’s gotta have something.”
I took a step forward.
“Can’t anybody see that I’m tired? Look at me. I haven’t had a shower in three days, and I’m supposed to be a sex goddess?”
I glanced at her. She was frumpy. “Looks like it’s my turn.” I stepped up to the counter the crying man had just left.
She followed me, closing the space I had opened between us. “I mean, I’m doing good to be conscious at the end of the day.”
“Maybe you should tell this to your mom.” I hoped to deflect her. I didn’t want to hear any more—not today.
“She’s in Alabama,” the young mother said. “Everybody I know has a mom who acts like a built-in babysitter, but I’m stuck here alone in the cold.”
“Ten fifty-four,” the salesclerk said in front of me. I dug my wallet out of my jacket pocket and handed some bills to her.
“You have the most amazing blue eyes.” The clerk leaned forward. This might have been interesting, if she were not sixtyish, wrinkled, and stinking of cigarettes.
I held out my hand. “Can I have my change?”
J.J. Lyon is a wife, mom, public relations professional and recovering journalist.
Her passion for prose and love of the American West are so intertwined; she doesn’t think she can separate them. When J.J. runs out of words, she reaches for her camera, takes off on a back road and returns home with a bucketful of inspiration.
She lives in a mountain valley with her husband, three children, some cats, two goats, a bird and a basset hound.