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Findley, Timothy.

Markham (Ont.). Viking c1986. 359pp. cloth, 32295 ISBN 0-670-81206-6-4. Distributed by Penguin Canada. CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by James Kingstone

Volume 15 Number 2
1987 March

Timothy Findley tells a good story very well; his novelistic efforts arc distinguished by inventive characterization, intricate plotting, and bizarre details that warm the imagination. All of which are in abundant evidence in The Telling of Lies. In this new novel, his deft advances on the murder mystery genre yield some standing results.

Set in Maine, specifically in the Aurora Sands Hotel, a resort hotel whose grace, charm, and durability are shared by the narrator. Miss Vanessa Van Home, the story opens with the mysterious death of wealthy commercial drug manufacturer, Calder Maddox. The sudden appearance of the CIA, a host of important politicians, including, finally, the President, and an enormous iceberg anchored theatrically offshore, arouse the narrator's suspicions. The discovery that Maddox was murdered unleashes Van Home's energies in the Miss Marple tradition and triggers a chain of events that carries the reader speedily to the end.

Since less sophisticated readers may grow impatient with the sub-plots, the novel may be read simply to unravel the tangled threads of the murder plot. One sub-plot however, that which dramatizes the narrator's horrific experiences as a child POW in Bandung Prison during World War II, contributes vividly to the essential texture of the story, as its organization initially amplifies, by contrast, the events of the main plot. In the end, certain revelations, of a human rather than a circumstantial order, diminish the distance between the two plots and lend an arresting authority to the epigraph taken from John Cheever: "The telling of lies is a kind of sleight of hand that displays our deepest feelings."

In the final analysis, Findley's accomplishment rests in his capacity to probe, with a deceptively light touch, the uncomfortable depths, revealing the way deception, of even the most banal variety, shapes our reality and determines our path to self-preservation.

James Kingstone, Peterborough, Ont.
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