Behind the Lie: A Novel
by Emilya Naymark

Published: 2022-02-08T00:0
Hardcover : 304 pages
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NYPD detective turned small town PI Laney Bird is in a fight to save lives—including her own—after a neighborhood block party turns deadly.

A story that will keep you guessing until the very end, Behind the Lie will not only grip readers, but also reveals the desperately true ...

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NYPD detective turned small town PI Laney Bird is in a fight to save lives—including her own—after a neighborhood block party turns deadly.

A story that will keep you guessing until the very end, Behind the Lie will not only grip readers, but also reveals the desperately true decisions women make for the sake of their families.

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July: Laney

Laney Bird, momentarily overcome with panic, strained

to find her son amid the surging, shouting crowd. Then her

training kicked in, partially clearing the fog of day-long drink-

ing, and she steadied, bare feet firm on her lawn, hand brush-

ing against her hip where her gun would have been if she’d been


But she wasn’t working; she was instead one of the ten hosts

of this monstrous party—more of a street fair as far as she was

concerned. Who had block parties with four hundred guests?

Her neighborhood did, that’s who. And things had decidedly

turned hairy. She cataloged the dozen or so people dialing 911, the

Duboises’ wrecked living room, that obscenely incongruous truck

inside her best friend’s home.

It was no accident she’d been standing on the sidewalk between

her house and the Dubois driveway during Oliver’s dramatic act of

demolition. She’d spent most of the party halfway down the block

in the game tent, taking on foosball opponents between swigs of

sangria. At some point during those hours, her son had readied

an amp and microphones and played a set with his HS jazz band.

Later she glimpsed him by their house, speaking with a girl. The

light had faded by then and she didn’t recognize his friend, but


neither did she try. She’d been practicing the Zen of Leaving Her

Boy Alone, with varying success, since his last birthday.

Twenty minutes before midnight, before Oliver put an end

to the festivities, she gave in to her impulses and texted her son,

reminding him of their mutually agreed-upon curfew.

As she looked up from her phone and toward her house, she saw

a figure dart away from her garage, cross the street, and melt into the

unlit alley beyond. Unease soured the wine in her uncomfortably full

stomach, and she poured the rest of her drink onto the lawn before

jogging homeward. A quick walk-through showed her home to be

dark, empty, cool, and quiet, though tinged with an unfamiliar scent,

as if the party had infiltrated her rooms with its smoky, barbecue-

perfumed and sunblock-ridden breath. She texted Alfie again, but

her son was either ignoring her or busy. By the time the blue pickup

shoved itself into her friend’s doorway a few minutes later, she was

already balanced on the edge between irritation and worry.

The crowd parted for the EMS and police cars, and Laney

stepped aside, her stomach cramping with adrenaline. When she

heard the fire engines and caught a whiff of burning wood, she

gave up any pretense of holding herself together and ran down the

hill toward the flames, her shouts adding to the steady roar rising

above her normally peaceful neighborhood.

The throng of guests multiplied. Some of the people who’d

gone home earlier in the evening came back, crowding either in

front of the spectacularly ravaged Dubois house or the more mod-

estly ruined Forty-Six Oak. The fire had started in one of the back

rooms, put forth enough flames and plumes of noxious smoke to

terrify everyone, blackened the yard-facing siding, and was doused

before causing serious damage. At least half of Sylvan’s firefighters

had already been at the party, and they called the engine house

within minutes of noticing the fire.

Laney scanned the huddled groups for her son, then texted

him once more. It’s not that she thought he had anything to do

with this fire. Why would she? She didn’t think this at all.

And yet. A tightness settled in her chest.

The second ambulance of the night screeched to the curb in

front of the still-smoking Forty-Six Oak and two young EMTs


jumped out, removed a stretcher, and hurried inside, brushing

past the firefighters on the porch. A set of police officers followed.

At the other end of the street, the first ambulance bleeped and

edged past the emergency vehicles, carrying away Oliver Dubois.

“Hey, Dan!” somebody yelled out behind Laney. Everyone

knew everyone here, and now she also recognized the EMT as a

nephew or cousin belonging to one of the families on the block.

The man waved and disappeared indoors.

A sharp finger tapped Laney’s shoulder, and she started, turn-

ing to face Alfie, her only progeny and often greatest aggravation.

At fifteen, Alfie was tall, nearly six feet, and lanky, with blond

curls falling onto his forehead (to hide the acne pinpricks above his

brows) and cropped short along the sides and back. His eyes slid

past her and toward the house. Though he remained just outside

the full glare of streetlights and floodlights and emergency lights,

she saw he was blushing, his pale face darker, his cheeks fuller


“Where were you?” she asked. She hadn’t meant to say it like

that, with suspicion, but the day was taking its toll and the fire

engines were not making her calmer.

He didn’t answer right away, studied the soot-streaked siding

in front of them. Then he shrugged.

She couldn’t help herself—grabbed his right hand and lifted

it, squinting at the red-knuckled skin, the torn cuticles. No sign of

soot. No odor of kerosene or lighter fluid. Only an angry scratch

across his forearm, still beaded with bright blood. But it was sum-

mer, and scratches, bug bites, and random bruises afflicted them

both. She started to ask about it, but he tugged away.

“Nice,” he said. “Good to know where I stand.” His eyes met

hers for the briefest second, and she felt her own face warm with

embarrassment. The past was the past, and she had to trust him.

Or pretend to unless presented with evidence. He shook his head,

spun on his heel, and marched up the hill toward their home.

At least she hoped he was marching home.

She rolled her shoulders to release the tension gathering there.

He had the right to be angry with her, but really, after what hap-

pened last year, what could she do with herself? With her dread?


Worse, even if she mastered her own misgivings, the police had a

record of him setting fire to the school his freshman year (acciden-

tally, of course; they all knew that) and . . . well. That other fire,

the one not at the school—no one ever proved anything. And in

any case, it would have been self-defense. She raised her chin. If

the police questioned Alfie tonight, at least he was (superficially)

clean. She could swear to that.

When Dan the EMT and his partner emerged from the black-

ened doorway, they were rushing out a gurney and on it a limp

figure, belted in sideways, bloodstains seeping through clothes,

face obscured by an oxygen mask.

The crowd behind her gasped, and the chatter grew in vol-

ume. Laney, who had seen enough in her NYPD past to recognize

exactly what was wrong with the victim and lived on this block

long enough to identify him even through the bruising and cuts

about his head, felt the last remnants of drunkenness vaporize.

What the hell happened tonight on her perfect little street?

“Dan, who is that?” someone else called out. “Is he okay?”

The EMT looked up. “Volkin,” he said, as they folded the

gurney into the ambulance. “Says he lives here. Gunshot wound.

Got him right in the butt cheek.”

“That’s a heck of a lot of blood for a butt shot,” yet another

neighbor said.

“Is he dead?” the first someone asked, fear and excitement in

his voice.

“Not yet,” Dan said, slammed the ambulance door and started

the siren. view abbreviated excerpt only...

Discussion Questions

What do you think about Society’s obsession with longevity and youth?
How do you think early trauma can affect a person’s view of the world?
How can the need to control the bad stuff become a pathology?
How do you think institutions for children and teens with behavioral and emotional difficulties could be better?
What is cartomancy?
Why is it important to show stories about the lengths women will go to protect their loved ones from harm?

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