Reviewed by: BigAl
Genre: Crime Fiction/Noir
Approximate word count: 85-90,000 words
Kindle US: YES UK: YES Nook: NO Smashwords: NO Paper: NO
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The Director of Creative Writing at Southwest Minnesota State University, Anthony Neil Smith has three other novels available. He is the publisher of the online noir zine Plots with Guns, and has had his short stories included in several publications and anthologies. For more, visit Smith’s blog.
Mick Throoft is a professor at a small private college in Minneapolis. He is a sensitive poet with an extreme case of “Minnesota nice.” Mick’s reserve is more than offset by the Machiavellian evil of Olivia, his longtime, platonic-girl-pal. When Mick’s wife files for divorce and tries taking advantage of Mick’s non-confrontational nature, Olivia cajoles him into putting up a fight.
Describing Choke on Your Lies as crime fiction or noir is misleading. There are crimes committed and the story isn’t a true one. There is plenty of darkness in some of the characters, their actions, and the story surrounding them; so both descriptions are accurate. Yet there is much more going on, with many aspects of a psychological thriller, but without as much mystery as you would expect in that genre. The climax is neat (in that it ties up those things that need to be), yet neither pretty (in human terms) nor what I expected. However, it is a satisfying ending.
I also found a couple of things among the details of Choke on Your Lies that stood out as exemplary. One of these is Mick’s taste in music, which was touched on in a couple of throwaway lines mentioning specific bands and artists. While not critical to the story, the choices used were enough out of the mainstream to fit the character and say a little about him, yet not so obscure that many readers won’t gain insight into Mick, adding more depth to the characterization. (That I approve of Mick’s taste didn’t hurt either.)
The other detail I wanted to mention is Smith’s handling of place. Much of the book takes place in the Twin Cities metro. One of my pet peeves is stories that happen in a real place, where the details of that place don’t fit reality. Often, the details don’t matter, but they do add depth to the story. Smith handles this deftly. The descriptions he gives of different areas are sparse, enough for someone unfamiliar with the real place to paint their own picture, yet enough to evoke the real location for those who are. For example, one scene takes place in an area of Minneapolis known as “Uptown.” Smith’s description is just enough for me to picture this area, yet leaves enough to the imagination for those not familiar with it to use a formerly bohemian and now gentrifying area in a city they are familiar with to fill in the gaps.
If it isn’t clear (and I can’t imagine it isn’t), if you’re into a little darkness in your reading, I think Choke on Your Lies would be a good choice.
Some adult language and situations.
A small number of typos.
Rating: ***** Five stars