One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline is a home run. Baseball is the
springboard for the riveting mystery that includes a lot of
curve balls. Not only do the characters deceive each other,
but with the many twists and turns, they deceive the readers
as well. This suburban domestic crime thriller plays off the
anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing that looms powerfully
in the background.
Here’s how Scottoline came up with the idea for the
story: “Last year I was asked to throw out the first
pitch at a Philadelphia Phillies game for ladies night. Honestly,
I do not know how to pitch. I started to go the high school
where my daughter graduated from to get pointers from the
team. I noticed the different relationships between the moms
and dads, the children, and between the team and the coach.
Although this coach was enlightened, encouraging, and friendly,
it got me to think what if there was a coach who was the direct
opposite, manipulative and uncaring. I like writing ‘what
if’ stories. BTW: The pitch I threw out was not that
The plot begins with Chris Brennan applying for a teaching
and coaching job at Central Valley High School in Pennsylvania.
He is hired as an AP Government teacher and baseball coach.
He is looking for the right student to act as his pawn and
apprentice for an unsavory evil job. On the same day that
Timothy McVeigh blows up a federal building, it appears Chris
is planning his own bombing. He uses the Constitutional debate
in the classroom to find the right teenager that can be manipulated,
and then as the baseball coach makes sure he builds that bond
by intentionally causing friction among the teammates.
Pennsylvania is the setting for every book of Scottoline
and the spring books can be considered suburban noirs. “When
I write I usually try to have a strong sense of place. Since
I live on a farm, I am concerned about fracking. I touched
on this in the book, since it is a real Pennsylvania problem.
I also wanted to get across in this story the difficulty of
raising a child in this suburban world. Each mother had a
problem in their life that affected how they interacted with
their sons who also had some psychological issues. Every character
is in effect lying to themselves and to the outside world.”
The three boys Chris is considering to enact what appears
to be a deadly plan are Raz Sematov, Jordan Larkin and Evan
Kostis. Each has secrets and particular challenges that include
their perspective relationship with their moms.
Raz is still emotionally struggling with the recent loss
of his father; Jordan has never known his father and lives
with his hardworking, single mother; and Evan, a child of
privilege, sees his parent’s marriage falling apart.
Through Chris’s eyes, readers see the interaction between
the boys on and off the baseball field, and how they react
to their mother’s circumstances. Susan, Raz’s
mom, has guilt feelings for failing to step up and take control
of the floundering family after her husband, their father,
dies. She is at a loss for how to parent her two teenage sons
who are acting out. Mindy, Evan’s mom, stays at home
and succumbs to the pressure of being a surgeon's wife by
filling her days with social events and too many gin and tonics.
She suspects her husband of having an affair, using social
media to try to find answers. Heather, Jordan’s mom,
is the most likable, because of her being very grounded. A
hardworking single mom, she is counting on a baseball scholarship
for Jordan so he can attend college. Despite their financial
struggles and lack of a male role model, Jordan is well-adjusted
and never gives Heather any reason to worry about him, that
is until she sees the baseball team sexting a naked female
to each other.
Because social media plays such an important role in teenage
life today, Scottoline wanted to make the point, “It
is too much of a trip. Sexting should not be accepted as a
norm. Even if the picture is texted to one person it should
never be sent around, and in doing so, it is actually theft.
People need to remember that once put on social media they
can never take anything back.”
The mystery comes into play as the ATF agents try to find
the bomber and what his motivations are. The supervisor, known
as “The Rabbi,” is a supporting character that
has a big impact on the plot. He is intelligent, caring, and
effectively juggles work and family.
Scottoline nicknamed the ATF character “The Rabbi,”
because in the large law firm she worked for “I had
a mentor who we called ‘The Rabbi.’ I always thought
of him as a teacher and a voice of reason. To me a Rabbi signifies
a leader. In the book the undercover agent looked up to this
character. It was a loving nickname representing the wise
To make the story very accurate, a lot of research was done
including, “interviewing for three hours the Philadelphia
head of ATF, the second in command, and an actual undercover
agent. I think many readers get their truth about criminal
and police procedure from fiction so it is imperative I get
it right. The truth is government agencies will cooperate
with any writer because they want the way it really works
to be out there. I hoped to show in this book how collecting
information by the agencies often collides with protecting
people’s privacy, which includes how evidence is obtained.”
This story was hit out of the park. The many issues of teenage
relationships, technology, sexting, class distinction and
the ever-present mother-son relationships makes the story
even more intriguing. The two b’s: baseball and bombs
combine to make the mystery riveting, action-packed, and gripping.
Readers should be aware things are not as they seem on the