Readers interested in metafiction, roman à clefs, and morally complex character studies will thrill to Ried's deft writing and clever plot complications. Backstory shrewdly compares the theme of rewriting the past to bolster one's own narrative to the concept of “fake news,” as the narratives that Ansel and Charlie choose for themselves aren't just self-delusional but actually harmful. Lies pile on top of lies and, in a tense and exciting sequence, at first seem to trap narcissistic cad Ansel, but soon Charlie and the tireless detectives searching for the truth get caught up in distractions.
Ried's characters are all given an opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them. Ansel, who writes best-sellers on the concept of revisionist history, believes he can spin his way out of anything but eventually faces up to hard truths. His friend Dutch is the book’s moral center, courting an employee of Ansel's while providing support to the other McYanks. Tess and Molly feel less developed than most of the men, though both have their moments. This exciting thriller finds betrayals, alliances, lies, and secrets all shaken until the truth comes out at last.
Takeaway: Lies, betrayals, and morally complex mystery as friends from Trinity College face the past.
Great for fans of: Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, Peter Straub’s A Dark Matter.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B-