The First Lie (Book I in the Selkie Moon Mystery Series) by Virginia King
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The First Lie
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Though I am a huge ghost story fan, over the years I’ve come to avoid various books classified as “paranormal” because so many involve blood-drinking and other creatures who fail to excite my imagination—and even disgust me a little. Let’s face it: it’s a wide continuum and though understandable why these and others might be placed on it, there are nevertheless huge gulfs. For a while there I found most of my ghostly reading came from the time when séances were all the rage.
So it was with pleasure that I came across Virginia King’s The First Lie, a modern paranormal mystery steeped in Celtic and Hawaiian mythology that promised to draw me into an international chase between two worlds—and draw me in it did.
One of the first elements I admired was the likability of King’s protagonist and supporting characters. These are individuals who talk to each other in ways that genuinely reflect the way people really act and converse. Even the baddies are credible, their behaviors and consequences developing as a result of realistic foibles.
Australian Selkie Moon escapes an emotionally abusive marriage—itself entered with the hope of providing refuge from a cold and calculating stepmother—by re-locating to Hawaii, where she sets up a business venture. She begins to experience visitations by a woman warning that someone is trying to kill her. Selkie’s art-student roommate Wanda, knowledgeable in the supernatural, counsels her, but even her native understanding is limited by her experiences. Following her decision to fully investigate this and other goings-on, Selkie garners her information from a variety of sources, themselves linked within true-to-life degrees of separation and in possession of knowledge that makes sense relative to who they are—a wise direction for King to take and cleverly mapped out.
Selkie’s co-worker Derek and his partner, Nigel, gift her a dress custom made by an Irish girl, whose later link to Selkie weaves the story through a project at work, which in turn affects the business relationship between herself and a client who subsequently plays a large role in bringing her closer to understanding the events playing out in her life. Real life tends to operate this way, so it makes sense for the author to reflect this in her work, and she does it in a way so sleek and engaging I found myself moving through transitions I’d wanted to use as a good stopping point, but didn’t because I was so involved I had to keep following.
This ho’ohihi, interconnectedness, is also addressed within the tale in the context of the roles people play not only in their own lives and personal pasts, but also their ancestral histories and how that affects the paths they travel. The selkie mythology—sea creatures resembling seals who can take human form on land—is explained in a dialogue that unwraps yet another layer to the story and mirrors some of Selkie’s own memory and experiences, beginning with the name her mother loved so much, and into the present-day ghostly stalking. “Around here,” Roger tells her, “the interface between the living and the dead … wavers.”
At dinner the night before a proposed outing, Selkie asks for details. The exchange about photography encompasses a picture of the relationship between Selkie and Roger, expands upon the “interface” the latter had spoken of and becomes a conduit, a road for Selkie to make her way toward her next supernatural experience, developing a foundational event in her story.
“A competition. For serious photographers. Called … Life and Death.”
A topic that might be haunting me. “Isn’t a cemetery a bit … obvious?”
“Only to an amateur. It’s the artist’s job to accentuate drama. Transmute the ambience into something … palpable. A solitary gravestone against the horizon … signifying the folly of man’s struggle against nature. That kind of thing.”
“Right.” Roger could be a tad pretentious. “So why do you want me along?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” he mimics. “I need someone pretty to carry my bags. And waggle her excellent buttocks occasionally.”
“I want to take photos too.”
He laughs. “You know sweet FA about photography.”
King even enables the reader to interconnect with the tale, not only in its captivating nature and how she draws readers in, but also by a small addition at the novel’s opening, a list of Hawaiian words. She does this by keeping the list limited—removing the potential overload and overwhelming nature of too much new information—and her word choices render us familiar with but also visitors to this world: we are new, yet still connected, much like events and characters in the story. Kahuna, a wise person or sorcerer and menehune, legendary little people, link with the familiar: Pele, a volcano goddess, Mai Tai, lei and muumuu.
As the tale moves on and Selkie begins to find answers—often raising more questions—explanations are called for, and King provides in a way that encourages absorption rather than confusion. Her style is spare but not sharp. She deftly renders the potentially complicated into a succinct exchange or passage of a fascinating topic against the backdrop of Selkie’s story and intriguing hints at her ancestry. I remain rather impressed at how well she handles as many layers as the novel contains, all while still drawing in and keeping us mesmerized. For just a small taste at what that means, consider the variety of genres and styles The First Lie overlaps: psychological thriller, drama, betrayal, paranormal, mystery, magic, mythology, self-discovery and romance, to name but a few. Selkie’s real life experiences blend beautifully with her visions and King brings us to emotional depths, and with such expertise, often unexplored in modern literature.
The First Lie is simultaneously what I’d hoped yet nothing I expected: thrilling all the way through with new twists at every turn, written in a grand style in a modern setting, and opening the door to further exploration. What will Selkie’s future hold? What other questions will arise as a result of what she finds here? Will she in time be able to accept all she has learned? Does she want to know more?
These and other questions will arise in the series’ next installment, The Second Path, and I look forward to seeing where the tale will take me as well.
About the author…
When a voice wakes you up in the middle of the night and tells you to write a mystery series what’s a writer to do? That’s how Virginia King came to create Selkie Moon, after a massage from a strange woman with gifted hands was followed by this nocturnal message. Virginia sat down at the keyboard until Selkie Moon turned up. All she had to do was jump, the first sentence said. Soon Virginia was hooked, exploring far-flung places full of secrets where Selkie delves into psychological clues tangled up in the local mythology.
Before Selkie Moon invaded her life, Virginia had been a teacher, an unemployed ex-teacher, the author of over 50 children’s books, an audio-book producer, a workshop presenter and a prize-winning publisher. These days she lives in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney with her husband, where she disappears each day into Selkie Moon’s latest mystery. Bliss.
A Free Ghost Story
Get a taste for the Selkie Moon mystery series with Laying Ghosts, a modern 24-page haunted house story inspired by a Russian folktale and tangled up in a murder ballad dating back to the 1700s. It’s a standalone story but also a prequel to the series and explains the chilling reason for Selkie Moon leaving Sydney to start a new life in Hawaii. Download your free copy here.
Giveaway of The First Lie
You could be one of ten lucky winners who will choose either a signed paperback or an audio book of The First Lie plus a $15 Amazon gift code. One grand prize winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift code.
Or, if you simply can’t wait to own your own edition of The First Lie, hop on over to the author’s website and grab your copy!
Click here for Virginia King’s captivating guest post about souvenir and sorry rocks!
Images courtesy Virginia King. A free copy of The First Lie was furnished to the blogger in exchange for an honest review.
This post was updated to include a link to the author’s subsequent guest post.