Ashley Elston / Book Review / Reviews with Spoilers

Ashley Elston | First Lie Wins

The Book:

First Lie Wins by Ashley Elston
Published January 2024 by Pamela Dorman Books

Torrie’s Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Buy it on | Amazon

This is a Book of the Month title for January 2024. If you’ve been thinking of joining BOTM, use Torrie’s referral code to get your first book for $5!

The Plot (Goodreads):

Evie Porter has everything a nice, Southern girl could want: a perfect, doting boyfriend, a house with a white picket fence and a garden, a fancy group of friends. The only catch: Evie Porter doesn’t exist.

The identity comes first: Evie Porter. Once she’s given a name and location by her mysterious boss Mr. Smith, she learns everything there is to know about the town and the people in it. Then the mark: Ryan Sumner. The last piece of the puzzle is the job.

Evie isn’t privy to Mr. Smith’s real identity, but she knows this job will be different. Ryan has gotten under her skin, and she’s starting to envision a different sort of life for herself. But Evie can’t make any mistakes—especially after what happened last time.

Because the one thing she’s worked her entire life to keep clean, the one identity she could always go back to—her real identity—just walked right into this town. Evie Porter must stay one step ahead of her past while making sure there’s still a future in front of her. The stakes couldn’t be higher—but then, Evie has always liked a challenge…

How did First Lie Wins End?

Click here for book spoilers for First Lie Wins
Book spoilers ahead–if you haven’t yet read First Lie Wins, I suggest you turn back now.

Evie Porter’s real name was Lucca. Halfway through the book, a woman shows up named Lucca who looks very similar to Evie. This Lucca also works for Mr. Smith, she was planted there by Mr. Smith to make Evie nervous, as Mr. Smith wasn’t sure if he could trust her anymore.

“George” the fake delivery driver was Mr. Smith. Lucca wanted out but she knew Mr. Smith would never let her quit, so she set up a long con to get him out of the picture. It started when he had her steal the painting. She had Devon, her hacker friend, track down any other operatives also going for the painting. All but one, Amy, died mysteriously shortly after that heist. Lucca contacted Amy to get Amy on her side. Amy was worried about Mr. Smith using her sister Heather and her niece against her, but she agreed. They worked together to get dirt on Mr. Smith and figure out his identity. Amy’s death had been faked. Lucca knew that Mr. Smith would come after her for the information she got from Amy, so the safety deposit box was a decoy as well. Devon took the evidence and Lucca just put an origami swan in the box.

Lucca caught Ryan talking to “George” and put together that “George” was Mr. Smith. She set him up to get caught by someone rich that he’d double crossed. Devon determined that Mr. Smith had been using Ryan’s illicit shipping business but that Ryan wasn’t a real operative like Lucca. In the epilogue, Lucca went to see Ryan. They told each other all of their secrets and rekindled their relationship. Amy, Devon, and Lucca took over Mr. Smith’s operation.

Torrie’s Review:

One of the best thrillers I’ve read in years! I loved the con-artist aspect, I haven’t read many books with people undercover or con-artists, but I loved it and now want to read them all. I was really intrigued by Evie’s character, she was complicated, but also an underdog. I really liked her, and honestly, I want to be her friend. I enjoyed all the questions the book brought up for me to consider about Evie: Should I root for the con-artist? Do I trust her? Do I want her to succeed? How the heck did she even get here? It seems obvious that a con-artist should be the bad guy, but Evie is much more complicated than that, which makes for an excellent story.

This book managed to surprise me multiple times, and it kept me entertained. I didn’t fully guess the twists, because I barely paused to figure them out – I finished this book in 2 days. I spent my Friday night in, reading until 2AM, just because I needed to know what happened! I was not disappointed with the ending, it is detailed and nuanced and all around fun. Also, I’m obsessed with the title. Early on, Evie explains that lying is a game, and your first lie is the most important, which lie you tell first either sets you up for success (winning) or failure (losing). I’ve never heard this advice before, but it was fascinating.

For some reason, this book made me think of the TV show White Collar – Evie is almost like Neal Caffrey (played by Matt Bomer). I loved that show because it mixed the light-hearted with the crime world. I can’t say this book is all that light-hearted, but the complicated con-artist who you hate to root for is very similar. Side note: if you’ve never watch White Collar, you’re missing out.

My only critique was the finances. I won’t get into any spoilers, but how she affords “help” didn’t track for me. I’m really impressed with Ashley Elston’s debut adult novel, and hope she writes more thrillers!

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