Terry Ambrose sets his second novel, License to Lie, in a beach city. So like his first novel, Photo Finish, we are treated to a beach dweller’s use of the sand and sea: “The fleet of ghostly fog ships was dissipating as the sun took control of the day.” And those descriptions fit the mood of his new character, a criminologist who works with the police, but doesn’t feel too good about himself at many points in the story: “The marine layer blanketed the sky above, the reflection of city lights gave the sky a dull sheen reminiscent of dirty white linoleum in a half-lit room.”
This novel is full of Terry’s subtle sense of humor and I found myself laughing out loud more than once and needing to turn pages fast. His criminologist is also a “forensic hypnotist.” How can you not read on to see what that’s all about? And his second lead character, a stunning blonde, is “kidnapped by Bush and Nixon.” No way I could put the book down there.
License to Lie is a detective story full of rapid plot twists, fun characters, and a computer-geek-saves-the-day ending. Ambrose tells the story through two protagonists. She is a con artist, a liar-for-profit with five million dollars of other people’s money in her bank account, and a cynic. He is her opposite, a criminologist, a hard worker, a guy with a soft spot for folks in trouble. She is definitely not attracted to him: “The last thing I needed was to be around a guy I couldn’t manipulate.” He tries hard not to fall in love with her: “She was captivating, seductive, and something else–yes dangerous.” Together they must track down four kidnappers. It is this relationship full of friction which keeps our interest as the plot zips along.
Ambrose has carefully stacked the deck in this novel so that each chapter, like the flip of a card, reveals and entices. He piles on more and more complications with each chapter, giving us great details so that we can visualize each scene–including some very good fight scenes. And occasionally he throws in some wonderful descriptive sentences, poetic language that is never too much: “The words came out as no more than a breath. Soft as the silk of my favorite blouse.”
This is well crafted storytelling. I think it would make a great beach read. Or, if you prop it up next to your Starbucks coffee, the beach will surround you anyway. I highly recommend it.