By Simran P. Gupta
E. Lockhart, a master of mystery and suspense, released her new novel on Sep. 5th of this year. Titled “Genuine Fraud,” it has been categorized across many genres: young adult, crime, mystery/thriller, and adult fiction. Her website calls it a “psychological suspense novel.”
If anything, this is a testament to Lockhart’s skill, because her writing is impossible to categorize.
“Genuine Fraud” is a story about identity, murder, family, and money. The story is written backwards; a tactic that takes getting used to at first, but hooks you after the first couple of chapters. The reader begins knowing nothing except what Lockhart chooses to reveal to us through Jule. Told in third person omniscient, we are constantly guessing the reliability of the narrator and protagonist.
I myself had many theories about the outcome of the novel and the stories behind the murders and deaths, but as the novel went on I questioned what I was told more and more. This effect of the novel-told- in- reverse is a testament to Lockhart’s mastery of this type of storytelling.
Jule’s and Imogen’s characters are revealed as their friendship is described in detail, backwards. Jule is reinventing herself as the hero, the “center of the story,” a phrase that bookends the book. In fact, the hero motif is recurring throughout the story.
She wants to be loved so badly that I almost felt pity for her. She is a cunning mastermind, a tough fighter, and though she might be a little bit broken she is not to be underestimated.
Imogen is so rich that she could come off as shallow and spoiled. She has a flat in London that she bought on a whim, a trust fund, and parents that will fund her credit card despite her refusal to keep in touch with them. She is repeatedly referred to by Jule, and by other friends, as “special.” Immie, as Jule refers her to, is someone to aspire to be like.
She brings friends lattes on bad days, she is effortless and a master cook, and everyone wants to be her friend.
If Jule’s hero complex shapes her identity, Imogen’s self-proclaimed identity is that of an orphan. The fact that she is adopted informs how she develops relationships, and it definitely informs her friendship with Jule. For the latter, her desire to be the untouchable and ever-triumphant hero informs everything she does in this novel.
For her part, Jules is on the run, though we don’t figure out why until the end of the book, which is ironically the beginning of the story. Lockhart successfully controls how much information we have and when, but makes sure we understand Jule’s calculating mind from the start. Reinvention is a huge theme and driving force of the novel. The lack of information leaves an unsettling feeling in the reader’s stomach; giving the sense that something more sinister is lurking, but we don’t know what. Each step back in time is one more puzzle piece that clicks into place. Each change in location is one layer deeper that we get into a character.
If you’re itching for a suspenseful novel to keep you turning pages late into the night, this is it. It hooked me from page one, and I’ll definitely be looking into Lockhart’s other novels.