The best books where a character pretends to be someone they’re not (and we’re waiting for them to get caught out)

Who am I?

I’m a psychologist by profession and I’m fascinated by the way personalities develop and change with life events. In novels, I’m drawn towards wounded characters who are searching for something to make them feel whole. Common issues I see in my psychotherapy work include imposter syndrome, low self-esteem, feelings of not being good enough. Many people try to hide their vulnerability behind a mask, faking confidence or bravado, or pretending to be something they’re not. But these fictional characters take it up a level, one small step at a time, until the lies build and they end up in a web of deceit with no way out.


I wrote...

The Accident

By Julia Stone,

Book cover of The Accident

What is my book about?

An unidentified young woman dies falling from a bridge onto Janice Thomason’s car. The police rule it as misadventure; not an act of suicide or murder, just an accident. But who was this woman? And what was she doing on the bridge with a bunch of helium balloons before she fell? 

Janice feels that fate has thrown them together. And when the police mistakenly return the woman’s charm bracelet to Janice, she embarks on a quest to find out more about this stranger’s life. But she takes things a step too far when she assumes a false identity in order to get close to the family. Soon it is too late to back out of her lies and she risks losing everything she’s hoped for. 

The books I picked & why

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Lie With Me

By Sabine Durrant,

Book cover of Lie With Me

Why this book?

From the opening sentence I was hooked. What might have started earlier? Why was the protagonist scratching on his forearm rather than using pen and paper? From the first page we are deep inside the head of the lead character, Paul Morris, and it’s not always a pretty place. He is a cynical manipulative liar, a deeply unpleasant man, but I was intrigued by how far he would go and whether he would get caught out.

It’s a slow burn as we watch the deceit unfold. We experience the lead character’s tension as he realises the mess he’s got himself into with his lies, then witness his struggle to backtrack and make things good. By the end I felt quite sorry for him. It had me gripped!

Lie With Me

By Sabine Durrant,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Lie With Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The truth is, we all tell lies... take a deep breath and dive into the book everyone's raving about.

'If you've had a hole in your literary life since finishing Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, this is the book to fill it' Grazia

It starts with a lie. The kind we've all told - to a former acquaintance we can't quite place but still, for some reason, feel the need to impress. The story of our life, embellished for the benefit of the happily married lawyer with the kids and the lovely home.

And the next thing…


The Talented Mr. Ripley

By Patricia Highsmith,

Book cover of The Talented Mr. Ripley

Why this book?

This suspense novel is a leader in the field of deceptive protagonists. Ripley adapts another’s persona alongside his own, but even as he plays both roles he knows that it will all have to end at some point. He is aware of what he’s doing, yet this is coupled with great self-deception: ‘I’m a good person really.’ His vulnerability is shown in his fear of being judged. At heart he is a lonely man, driven by obsession and jealousy. Ripley is a complex, well-drawn character - I’d love to see his personality profile!

The Talented Mr. Ripley

By Patricia Highsmith,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Talented Mr. Ripley as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's here, in the first volume of Patricia Highsmith's five-book Ripley series, that we are introduced to the suave Tom Ripley, a young striver seeking to leave behind his past as an orphan bullied for being a "sissy." Newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan, Ripley meets a wealthy industrialist who hires him to bring his playboy son, Dickie Greenleaf, back from gallivanting in Italy. Soon Ripley's fascination with Dickie's debonair lifestyle turns obsessive as he finds himself enraged by Dickie's ambivalent affections for Marge, a charming American dilettante, and Ripley begins a deadly game. "Sinister and strangely alluring"…


Social Creature

By Tara Isabella Burton,

Book cover of Social Creature

Why this book?

We’re straight in the story from page one, experiencing the intensity of the toxic relationship Louise has with her new best friend – a woman she’s only known ten days. Louise has a complex personality, her low self-esteem leading to constant self-assessment. But boy, how she changes! I liked the way the author breaks the fourth wall by directing comments to the reader, the foreshadowing allowing us to know what’s coming before the characters. Not my usual choice, as the novel is set in America with a cast under 30, but I enjoyed the build in tension as I waited for Louise to be caught out. 

Social Creature

By Tara Isabella Burton,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Social Creature as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the Best Books of the Year:
Janet Maslin, The New York Times
Vulture
NPR

"Social Creature is a wicked original with echoes of the greats (Patricia Highsmith, Gillian Flynn)." —Janet Maslin, The New York Times

For readers of Gillian Flynn and Donna Tartt, a dark, propulsive and addictive debut thriller, splashed with all the glitz and glitter of New York City.

They go through both bottles of champagne right there on the High Line, with nothing but the stars over them... They drink and Lavinia tells Louise about all the places they will go together, when they finish…


The Girls I’ve Been

By Tess Sharpe,

Book cover of The Girls I’ve Been

Why this book?

This book is aimed at a young adult audience, and it’s a fun pacey read. The author uses a ticking clock in her chapter titles – ‘(12 minutes captive) 1 lighter; no plan’ – which ups the tension. There are two stories running in parallel – the current events in a bank and the back story of Nora’s life. I enjoyed the small glimpses of the protagonist’s childhood and I was dying to know more about the relationship with her mother. Why did the mother force Nora to assume so many different identities? Who is Nora really?

The Girls I’ve Been

By Tess Sharpe,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Girls I’ve Been as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Soon to be a Netflix film starring Stranger Things' Millie Bobby Brown - this must-read psychological thriller, perfect for fans of One of Us Is Lying, will leave you guessing until the final page.
'Unlike anything I've read before... immediate, gripping, incredibly tense, heart-breaking, heart-warming and FUN! ' - Holly Jackson, author of A Good Girl's Guide to Murder

As an ex con artist, Nora has always got herself out of tricky situations. But the ultimate test lies in wait when she's taken hostage in a bank heist. And this time, Nora doesn't have an escape plan ...

Meet Nora.…


Single White Female

By John Lutz,

Book cover of Single White Female

Why this book?

Published in 1990, this book reflects the era in which it was written and may be slightly over-written for modern tastes. The short chapters draw you through the story as we see inside the heads of different characters, so the reader is often one step ahead of Allie, the protagonist. As Allie’s subdued flatmate starts to idolise her, I was keen to discover whether easy-going Allie would realise something was wrong. When their roles start to change halfway through the novel, it seemed things could only go one way and I started turning the pages faster. This is an interesting early example of the genre and I can see why it was made into a film.

Single White Female

By John Lutz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Single White Female as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Imitation is the deadliest form of flattery. . .

After a messy break-up, Allie Jones finds herself living alone in her New York City apartment, no one to share her bed with--and more urgently, no one to share her rent. The solution seems clear: she needs a roommate. And Hedra Carlson seems perfect--she's shy, quiet. . .safe. But soon Hedra's disturbing envy of Allie's looks and social life becomes unsettling. She wears Allie's clothes, even buys a wig in Allie's color and style. Then the obscene phone calls begin, Allie's credit cards vanish, and she discovers Hedra is living a…


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