Thursday, January 23, 2014

Picture of Lies by C.C. Harrison

First Line: This was supposed to have been a make-up vacation.

Since investigative journalist Keegan Thomas's little daughter Daisy was kidnapped, she's been trying to bury herself in work to avoid thinking about the nightmare her life has become. Now she's facing burnout.

Keegan decides to take some time off to go to Monument Valley to put some names to the faces in an old photograph that was found in her grandfather's belongings after his death. She's surprised when most of the Navajo refuse to speak to her, but she eventually learns that one of the children in the photograph was kidnapped by missionaries and taken to a boarding school. In trying to find out what happened to the child, Keegan will not only learn shocking truths about her family that stretch back two generations, she will be putting her life in danger.

This is one of the few times a book cover has drawn me to a particular book, and when I learned that Picture of Lies is a mystery and does indeed take place in Monument Valley, I had to read it.

I love Monument Valley, and I'm happy to say that Harrison does a good job of giving readers a feel for the vast distances and incredible beauty of the area. I also liked her portrayal of the Navajo characters in the book. I had mixed reactions to Keegan and her archaeologist love interest, Dante, however.

Dante is a handsome, intelligent, caring hunk with a deep dark secret in his past. We get to see the reason why he's hiding out in one scene, but I felt that more about this could have been added throughout the story to make him an even stronger character. The relationship between Dante and Keegan also gathers speed and seriousness a bit too quickly in comparison to how they behaved toward each other in the first sections of the book.

I found Keegan to be a mixture of girl-next-door, journalistic pit bull, and incredible naivete. When she decides to drive off across the desert not knowing where she's going (and not telling anyone what her plans were), equipped with improper clothing, very little water, and a cell phone that didn't work in the area, I just shook my head and rolled my eyes. If it sounds like I've been out in the middle of nowhere, I have, and her lack of common sense greatly disappointed me.

This isn't the only time she experiences the unforgiving nature of this place, and although I may bemoan her lack of survival smarts, these scenes do give readers a real sense of what it's like out there. When Keegan travels with one of the Navajo, the Navajo knows all the rutted tracks to the places they're traveling to; very little driving is done on paved roads. In fact, paved roads are few and far between, and when Keegan mentions leaving Kayenta and turning off on the "interstate" when heading to Window Rock, don't believe her. There are no interstates up there.

By book's end, two important plot threads are left untied, which makes me wonder about future Keegan Thomas books. With the setting, the customs of the Navajo, and a very intriguing mystery in Picture of Lies, I would be willing to read further... as long as Keegan packs a hat and plenty of water.

Picture of Lies by C. C. Harrison
ISBN:  9781432827755
Five Star Publishing © 2011
eBook, 326 pages

Rating: B-
Source: Purchased and downloaded from Amazon.


  1. Cathy - Yes, I think I'd roll my eyes too. I have to say it's a pet peeve of mine when a protagonist acts stupidly or outright dangerously without a very compelling reason. At the same time, I do love a sense of place and it's good to know that Harrison got the Monument Valley setting right. Still!

    1. Exactly! You and I are on the same page with TSTL Syndrome, Margot.

  2. I hate it when characters do such obviously stupid things if being stupid isn't an integral part of their character. It would seriously impact my appreciation of the book, though, like you, I love that part of the country.

    1. Yes, Monument Valley was the major reason why I read the book.

  3. I too recognized Monument Valley from the cover, (just about my most favorite place in the world, been there 4 times, and it's not an easy ride from the Washington DC suburbs) and it strikes me that the old saying that you can't judge a book......may never have been more true. I believe that this publisher does self publishing and while there's nothing wrong with that especially for a new author, this is book #2 for this author, same publisher. Not a vote of confidence, nor is the lack of a significant number of positive reader reviews for book one, nor is the rather low low price for this book, nor is your luke warm review. Think I'll pass, regretully.

    Ken in McLean

    1. You and I share a love of Monument Valley, Ken. One year my birthday/anniversary present from Denis was a trip up there, staying at Goulding's Lodge, and an all-day guided tour through Mystery Canyon. When we got back, I wouldn't let Denis wash the orange mud off the Jeep.

  4. I received this comment in an email from "desertgypsygirl":

    "Five Star/Cengage is not self pub. It’s a traditional publisher. Part of Gale Publishing."

    Thanks so much for the info, DGG!


Thank you for taking the time to make a comment. I really appreciate it!