The King of Lies

John Hart

Minotaur Books

John Hart creates a literary thriller that is as suspenseful as it is poignant, a riveting murder mystery layered beneath the southern drawl of a humble North Carolina lawyer. When Work Pickens finds his father murdered, the investigation pushes a repressed family history to the surface and he sees his own carefully constructed façade begin to crack.

Work’s troubled sister, her combative girlfriend, his gold digging socialite wife, and an unrequited lifelong love join a cast of small town characters that create no shortage of drama in this extraordinary, fast-paced suspense novel.

Hart’s mastery of prose and plot belie his newcomer status as he explores the true heart of a man. An illuminating anatomy of a murder and the ripple effect it produces within a family and a community, The King of Lies is a stunning debut.



Read an Excerpt

Chapter One 
I've heard it said that jail stinks of despair. What a load. If jail stinks of any emotion, it's fear: fear of the guards, fear of being beaten or gang-raped, fear of being forgotten by those who once loved you and may or may not anymore. But mostly, I think, it's fear of time and of those dark things that dwell in the unexplored corners of the mind. Doing time, they call it--what a joke. I've been around long enough to know the reality: It's the time that does you.
For some time, I'd been bathed in that jailhouse perfume, sitting knee-to-knee with a client who'd


Praise for The King of Lies

"The King of Lies moves and reads like a book on fire. The author is a lawyer who knows his way around the courtrooms and jailhouses, the cops and judges, the way that Grisham and Turow do. Smart and swiftly moving, The King of Lies is the work of an amazing new talent."
-- Pat Conroy

"John Hart's debut in the world of fiction is that most engrossing of rarities, a well-plotted mystery novel that is written in a beautifully poetic style. The King of Lies will mark the beginning of a long and stellar career."
-- Mark Childress, author of Crazy in Alabama, Tender, and Gone for Good

"A stunning debut, absolutely relentless. I dare you to read the first chapter of The King of Lies and not be hooked. Daring and original... John Hart delivers with this dark, heart-breaking tale of secrets and revenge."
-- Steve Hamilton, author of Ice Run
"The King of Lies is a rare, remarkable book, a marvel from the first page to the last. At times blunt and startling, at times full of grace and subtle wisdom, this novel is, without a doubt, one of the most compelling pieces of fiction I've ever read."
-- Martin Clark, author of The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living and Plain Heathen Mischief

"A suspenseful novel about the unraveling of the poisonous legacy of a southern lawyer brings us a strong new voice in crime fiction. John Hart is a writer to watch."
--Thomas Perry, author of Dead Aim

"The best thing about reading King of Lies is watching the character of Work Pickens evolve. Though there's plenty of intrigue here, with dead bodies and villains galore, the real change happens inside the character of Work Pickens as he's forced by external circumstances to take a hard look at his assumptions and values. An ambitious debut from a promising new novelist."
-- Sheri Reynolds, author of Rapture of Canaan and Gracious Plenty

Reviews from Goodreads



  • John Hart

  • John Hart is the New York Times bestselling author of Down River and The Last Child. The only author in history to win the best novel Edgar Award for consecutive novels, John has also won the Barry Award and England's Steel Dagger Award for best thriller of the year. He was born and raised in North Carolina. For a time he practiced criminal defense law, but left to focus on his writing.
  • John Hart Abigail Seymour Photography
    John Hart


John Hart

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Available Formats and Book Details

The King of Lies

John Hart

Anthony Awards - Nominee, Edgar Allen Poe Award Nominee, Macavity Award - Nominee


Minotaur Books