54 pages 1 hour read

Freida McFadden

Never Lie

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2022

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Summary and Study Guide


Never Lie is a 2022 psychological thriller by Freida McFadden. It tells the story of a married couple, Tricia and Ethan, who are stranded in a house in upstate New York because of a snowstorm. The house belonged to renowned psychiatrist Dr. Adrienne Hale, who went missing three years prior. When Tricia discovers a room of secret tape recordings in Adrienne’s house and starts listening to them, the truth about Adrienne’s murder is revealed, as are secrets about Tricia’s and Ethan’s own murderous pasts.

Freida McFadden is a New York Times, #1 Amazon, USA TODAY, Wall Street Journal, and Publisher's Weekly bestselling author. She is also a practicing physician and specializes in brain injury. Her knowledge of medicine informs some of her work, including Never Lie.

This study guide refers to the 2022 Hollywood Upstairs Press edition.

Content Warning: Never Lie and this study guide refer to murder, self-harm, partner abuse (emotional manipulation), extortion, mental health conditions, and threats of sexual assault.

Plot Summary

Never Lie is told via two alternating points of view, shifting back and forth between the voices of Patricia Lawton, first introduced only as “Tricia,” and Dr. Adrienne Hale. Tricia’s voice narrates the present, while Adrienne’s voice narrates the past. The two voices are interspersed with transcripts of recordings of Adrienne’s therapy sessions, allowing the past and present to overlap: For example, one chapter will have Adrienne’s past point of view setting up a therapy session; the next chapter will have a transcript of that session; and the chapter after that will shift to Tricia’s point of view, after she finishes listening to the recording of that session.

As the book opens, Tricia and her husband, Ethan, have been married for six months and are looking for a house. They go to view a house in remote upstate New York. Because of a snowstorm, Ethan and Tricia get stranded at the house.

The house belonged to Dr. Adrienne Hale, a famous psychiatrist who went missing three years prior. Adrienne’s boyfriend at the time, Luke Strauss, was investigated for her murder and seems the most likely suspect. While snowed in at Adrienne’s house, Tricia discovers a secret room holding old tapes—recordings of all of Adrienne’s therapy sessions. Without telling Ethan, Tricia starts to listen to the tapes, focusing on the ones labeled “EJ,” “PL,” and “GW.” The initials stand for Edward Jamison, Patricia Lawton, and Gail Wiley, patients of Adrienne’s.

While trapped in the house, Ethan and Tricia both pretend they are unfamiliar with the house and Adrienne, but the reader discovers as the book progresses that they are both lying. Ethan was at the house before, picking up his mother, Gail Wiley (GW from the tapes), from therapy. Gail had paranoid delusions, including one that her son was trying to kill her. In fact, Ethan did kill Gail—a twist that is revealed in the book’s final chapters.

Tricia already knew about Ethan’s murdering of his mother before she married him. This is because Tricia (Patricia Lawton, PL from the tapes) was a patient of Adrienne’s and ran into Gail at Adrienne’s house. Tricia went to see Adrienne for post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, after she claimed her fiancé and two friends were murdered by a knife-wielding man in a cabin in the woods. Tricia survived the assault with a knife wound to the stomach. In reality, there was no man. Tricia killed her fiancé and friends after finding out that her fiancé was sleeping with one of her friends. Tricia stabbed herself in the stomach to make her story of a strange killer believable. At the book’s conclusion, it is revealed that Tricia orchestrated their entrapment at the house during the storm, pretending that their realtor had set up a viewing. She even canceled the snowplow service that would normally come by the house in inclement weather. She wanted to see if Ethan would confess to her and if there was evidence of her murdering her ex-fiancé and friends at the house.

Three years prior, when Adrienne was still alive, she discovered the truth about Tricia while treating her. Adrienne never reported Tricia. Instead, Adrienne used Tricia’s story as the primary anecdote in her book, The Anatomy of Fear. It was only later that Adrienne revealed to Tricia that she knew Tricia was the killer. Adrienne then used this information to force Tricia to abduct another one of Adrienne’s patients, Edward Jamison (EJ from the tapes). Edward was extorting Adrienne with videotape of Adrienne slashing someone’s tires. After Tricia abducted Edward, Adrienne killed him and hid his body.

Tricia was never sure what Adrienne did with Edward until she read a news article about Edward going missing. Tricia worried she might get blamed for Edward’s disappearance, because, at Adrienne’s behest, Tricia abducted Edward from a casino, where there would be plenty of security-camera footage. Once Tricia realized Edward was dead, Tricia went to Adrienne’s home and killed her, telling her: “My mother always says the only way two people can keep a secret is if one of them is dead” (305).

In the book’s present tense, three years after Adrienne’s murder, Tricia has brought Ethan back to Adrienne’s home with the hopes of figuring out what Adrienne did with Edward’s body. This is the last loose end that could result in Tricia getting caught. Tricia also wants to use the opportunity to finally get Ethan to admit that he killed his mother.

A wrinkle arises in Tricia’s plan when it turns out that Luke, Adrienne’s ex, is secretly living in the house. Fired from work because he was suspected of murdering Adrienne, Luke has lived a transient life in Adrienne’s old home for years. When Tricia and Ethan find Edward’s decomposed body under the floorboards of Adrienne’s office, Luke also sees it. Luke knew about Edward extorting Adrienne and correctly guesses that the body is Edward’s.

Tricia and Ethan tie up Luke to hold him captive while trying to decide what to do. Ethan then discovers the secret room of tape recordings. Shortly after, Tricia catches Ethan trying to burn the GW recordings (the ones of his mother). Tricia uses the opportunity to get Ethan to confess that he killed his mother. Tricia then tells Ethan the truth about killing her fiancé and friends—and Adrienne. Tricia and Ethan decide to kill Luke to protect their secrets and burn the incriminating tape recordings relating to their cases.

In an epilogue, Tricia and Ethan are living in Adrienne’s house, which they bought. Luke is buried in the garden. Tricia and Ethan have daughter, plus a son on the way, and seem to be in a state of marital bliss. However, Trisha worries that Ethan may crack under the pressure of their secrets. If Ethan cracks, Tricia is prepared to kill him. The book ends with Tricia repeating the thought she had before she killed Adrienne: “My mother always says the only way two people can keep a secret is if one of them is dead” (334).