Cover image for Little white lies : a novel
Little white lies : a novel
Benrey, Ronald.
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Nashville, TN : Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001.
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312 pages ; 23 cm
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Pippa Hunnechurch scoffs at the idea that God cares about her future. With economic hard times on the horizon, Pippa concludes she is on her own. After the deaths of two colleagues, Pippa is in a terrible dilemma. If she cooperates with the police, she ruins her own reputation and destroys the careers of four celebrated executives. If she remains silent, she becomes the target of a ruthless murderer.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The Benrey team's Little White Lies is about Britisher Pippa Hunnechurch, a one-woman head-hunting firm who falls into the habit of embellishing resumes. It works, she finds, and she has a glib partner in crime, the overly ambitious Marsha Morgan. But then Marsha drowns, her death is followed by another, and all of a sudden the police are interested in Pippa's fibs. A Christian friend tells Pippa she has to come clean, but doing so will damage the prospects of her current clients, not to mention her own career, and thus Pippa faces the deepest crisis of her life in this likable, often witty tale. In The Maiden of Mayfair, first in her Victorian Tales of London series, Blackwell evokes Dickens rather than the Brontes in her portrait of young Sarah Matthews. Sarah is the ward of the St. Matthew Methodist Foundling Home for Girls in Drury Lane. Although the orphanage is grim, she's lucky, for abandoned children are everywhere and often perish in the streets. And soon Sarah is rescued by a rich widow who suspects Sarah may be her granddaughter, the daughter of her profligate son. Blackwell's Victorian romances can seem tame even for the Christian market, although her period detail is always fine, and this series looks to be livelier than some of its predecessors. Bly, the best-known writer of Christian westerns, has so many series currently under way that it's hard to keep up with them all. But his Belles of Lordsburg series, with its unusual setting and Bly's trademark wit in good form, begins well with The Senator's Other Daughter. Rebelling against the comfortable but stifling life imposed by her father, a U.S. senator, Grace Denison flees to a woebegone town in New Mexico, where she works as a late-night telegraph operator for the railroad. A local hero, Colt Parnall, courts her, and initially Grace thinks him too crude for her time. But once she climbs off her pedestal, Grace finds herself in Lordsburg, a town much in need of a woman's touch. And Colt starts to look better. Byers puns his way though a send-up of quantum physics assumptions that there is no causality in the universe with his clever, witty The Life of Your Time. The story, such as it is, concerns sixth-grader Percival Weckbaugh of Central City, Missouri, a polite young man in an impolite world. Percival begins to wonder about the meaning of life when a random number, whom Byers introduces as the character 1314, rebels against the forces of Blind Chance and Chaos and causes several coincidences. Each of these coincidences corresponds with crucial moments in the lives of Byers' several small-town characters, all of whom are lovingly drawn. These postmodern goings-on result in a sort of cross between Alan Lightman's Einstein's Dreams (1993) and Alice in Wonderland, as well as great satirical fun, in this highly original, nimble tour de force. Relying on scholarship to sort out the contradiction between John and the Synoptic Gospels, and making some educated guesses to fill gaps, Johnson tells in simple but affecting prose the straightforward story of Jesus the great teacher, The Gospel of Yeshua. Nothing is certain in this subgenre, but Johnson's can comfortably join similar efforts: Fulton Oursler's Greatest Story Ever Told (1949), Frank Slaughter's Crown and the Cross (1959), and more recently, Walter Wangerin's Book of God (1996). Another new series, Yukon Quest, begins with Peterson's Treasures of the North, set during the Alaskan gold rush of 1897. Because of the financial difficulties of her father, Chicago debutante Grace Hawkins is about to be forced into marriage with rich Martin Paxton. Martin is a villain so crudely drawn he might as well be called Snidely Whiplash, particularly when Grace heads north of the border, to Alaska, to escape him, and Martin follows. Grace's governess, Karen Pierce, is more convincing, as are Peterson's portraits of the Tlingit Indians, whose way of life is threatened by the gold rush. Peterson pairs with legal thriller writer Bell for City of Angels, first in the Shannon Saga series about Kathleen Shannon, an orphan with connections. She journeys to Los Angeles in 1903 to live with her rich aunt and, she hopes, study law. Male lawyers put up obstacles, but her investigative skills win their grudging admiration. Thomas' Singsation is the second entry of Warner Books' new Christian imprint, Walk Worthy. It's about the maturation of a young African American gospel singer, Deborah Anne Peterson. She's discovered in her backwater Georgia congregation by a hometown boy, Triage Blue, who's made good in the big world as a rapper and movie actor. Triage lines up Deborah as a backup singer with a rhythm-and-blues band, but Deborah knows her talent is for God's glory and is soon distressed by the compromises confronting her if she wants to succeed commercially. Thomas' story is entertaining but predictable, and never as convincing as Reid Arvin's Wind in the Wheat (1994), much the same story from the point of view of a young white singer. In The Trial, small-town attorney Kent ("Mac") MacClain, in despair over the death of his wife and two sons, is about to commit suicide. Then the phone rings, and he's handed a public defender's role in what is alleged to be the murder of a young woman from a prominent local family. The defendant is a drifter who can't remember what happened, but circumstances clearly point to his guilt. Mac is aided by a pretty out-of-town widow, a Christian psychologist with a son. She quickly goes to work both on Mac's head and on his heart in this seamless thriller from the reliable Whitlow.

Publisher's Weekly Review

In their debut novel, the Benreys spin a brisk Christian murder mystery with a moral question at its core: Do the little white lies people tell to protect others or to smooth their own lives really leave no mark? The creative, feisty (and unfortunately named) heroine and narrator is Pippa Hunnechurch, a British transplant to a small community in Maryland. Pippa is running from a tragic past and working to establish a one-woman business as an executive headhunter. Her fortunes seem to take a happy turn when she lands a key assignment and finds a willing business partner with the perfect qualifications. But when that new colleague promptly drowns under somewhat mysterious circumstances, Pippa is sucked into a world of high-powered resume-dressing and cover-up, with four ambitious women executives at the center of the plot. Involving the police and revealing all she has learned would mean ruining the careers of several women guilty only of "little white lies," so Pippa embarks on a daring scheme to catch the murderer herself. The novel, while predictable, is fast-paced and liberally seasoned with flavorful bits of British culture and dry humor. It is driven mainly by its female characters, who rather formulaically blend the contemporary and the traditional. They're strong and independent, but they're also beautiful and well-dressed, deliberately charming men for their own advancement. This mystery will appeal to readers who enjoy decent suspense laced with Christian ethics. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One When the coppers talk about Marsha Morgan, they start with her death--how she fell off the Chesapeake Belle and drowned in the Miles River. But the police can't tell you the whole story. I can. My tale begins five days earlier, with a frenetic telephone call.     It was the last Monday in July I had begun to peruse The Baltimore Sun and drink my second cup of Darjeeling tea when my telephone rang. "Pippa Hunnechurch, here," I said, ready to talk business. On occasion, early morning calls come from eager personnel managers bringing me new assignments.     I heard a deep breath, then a sniff, then a rush of syllables I could scarcely separate.     "We received the most awful news this morning. It's a disaster over here, and we need to talk."     I recognized my caller at once: Connie Hillman, the director of human resources at Simpson Manufacturing Company. I had known her for the past fifteen months as a chipper individual with a buoyant personality. Today her voice reeked of despair.     "Slow down, Connie," I said. "Start at the beginning."     "There is no beginning! This is the end . The worst day of my career. The pits. The bottom of the barrel. The ..."     "I get your point. Something calamitous has happened at Simpson Manufacturing."     Another deep breath. Another sniff. "It's way past calamitous, hon. Our chairman ordered a hiring freeze. Effective today Throughout the whole company. Starting this morning, I don't have a single job opening to fill."     My hand began to tremble when I guessed what she would say next. I gingerly set my cup atop its saucer.     "You're in the soup too," Connie moaned on. "Forget about any new recruiting assignments. I can't even hire the classy accountant you found for us last week."     "No, I suppose not," I mumbled with Grade-A British reserve, although I wanted to scream: This can't be happening to me! Not now! I had spent the better part of a month tracking down the perfect candidate and had earmarked most of my fee, six thousand dollars, to pay down my credit cards and renew my ancient fall wardrobe.     "Did your chairman say how long the hiring freeze might last?" I asked.     "Nine months, minimum. Maybe longer."     Nine months! Intolerable! Simpson Manufacturing generated more than half of my revenues. The company had become my best and most reliable client, the one I could always count on to provide a steady stream of recruiting jobs. Without Simpson paying my monthly bills, I was well and truly done for.     "There must be some way to push my accountant in under the wire," I said, trying to sound less panicky than I felt.     "A prayer might help."     A prayer! I fought to hold my temper. What kind of an absurd suggestion was that?     "To be honest, Connie, I had something more practical in mind. Perhaps it might help to send your chairman an E-mail message that explains how much work we did to find this particular accountant. It will be a shame to lose him."     Connie hesitated, then asked: "Don't you believe in God?"     I almost laughed. When Connie grabbed hold of a bone, she didn't let go, but I wasn't in the mood to talk about God, not when I felt scared stiff about my future. I came up with a suitably glib reply.     "Oh, I suppose he is up there somewhere," I said, "but I doubt that he watches over me or cares about my professional problems."     "I believe you're wrong, Pippa. I need God to take an immediate interest in my future. This could be the start of a complete corporate restructuring. If that happens, I'll almost certainly lose my job."     "Good Lord!"     "See! Everyone becomes a believer when the layoffs begin."     "Touché."     We both giggled.     "Well, I'm off to write my own résumé," she said. "It's been swell working with you, Pippa."     My friends call me Pippa because my full name is a right long wheeze: Philippa Elizabeth Katherine Hunnechurch. I am a Brit by birth, a resident of Ryde, Maryland, by choice, thirty-six by the inexorable march of time, and a headhunter by occupation.     Correction! I would be a headhunter until my bank account ran dry. During the past month I had suffered through similar phone calls from three other clients.     "Our markets are terribly weak, Pippa. Lombard Computing won't have any other new assignments for the rest of this year."     "Sorry, Pippa, but Danforth Accounting Services has been forced to downsize its operations."     "Kennally Metals is laying people off, Pippa, not hiring. Senior management has decided to reorganize the company."     The frenzy of corporate cost cutting in my little corner of Maryland threatened to throttle Philippa Hunnechurch & Associates, Executive Recruiters. I had launched myself into business eighteen months earlier with great confidence and enthusiasm, but now I faced the distinct likelihood of not seeing my second anniversary. How could a headhunter survive when her principal customers stopped hiring new people?     I stared at the wall for a while and studied my nineteenth-century print of a whaling ship going to sea. Oh, how I envied the seamen in the picture. A nice steady job for three years with nothing but storms and sea monsters to worry about. How blessed it must be to live one's life without clients.     Ah well, at least Pippa Hunnechurch won't starve , I told myself. I will become my last candidate. I'll find me a snug, low-stress job that doesn't demand much initiative. I'll collect a regular paycheck, and cleverer people than I will worry about keeping the business solvent.     All at once the little voice in the back of my brain shouted, Stop! My streak of British determination flared like kerosene on a bonfire. I am a Hunnechurch, after all, and a Hunnechurch stands her ground. A Hunnechurch looks the bulldog in the eye without flinching. A Hunnechurch doesn't cower like a trapped rabbit while her livelihood pours down the drain.     Let me explain. When one is raised in Chichester (in the heart of Sussex County in the south of England) by a mother who can trace the family tree back to the very London wigmaker who helped to coif Queen Elizabeth I, one tends to be overstocked with pithy English maxims. At times of stress, they worm their way to the surface.     Maxim or not, I felt my upper lip stiffening nicely I love my work. Equally as important, I do it well. No way would I let my young recruiting firm go belly up without a fight.     The proper way to launch a new endeavor is to make a list. (Yes. Another piece of practical advice from my mum.) I pulled a notepad from my desk drawer and wrote: Things to Do at Once to Revive My Sagging Business 1. Don't wait for satisfied clients to call you! Ask them for assignments. 2. Find companies that are moving to Maryland. They are growing. They need good people. 3. Place calls to every personnel manager within fifty miles of Baltimore. 4. Do more networking.     Right then a notion popped into my head. I rummaged through my "In" basket. There! The reminder postcard from the Ryde Chamber of Commerce. The July meeting was scheduled for tonight at Mariners' Hall in downtown Ryde. Excellent! A perfect opportunity to collar the local gentry and perhaps uncover a client or two. I amended my list: 5. Begin networking at tonight's chamber of commerce meeting. Take plenty of business cards.     For a moment I was tempted to put down a sixth item: Pray--but my common sense prevailed. God and I had parted company seven years earlier after he demonstrated his complete inability to wisely manage the world we live in. Connie could believe anything she wanted; I felt certain that no one had control of my future except me. * * * Two weeks later, when I reviewed this curious day for Detective Stephen Reilly of the Ryde Police Department, he responded with petulant skepticism.     "Are you telling me that you went to Mariners' Hall that evening not knowing what would happen?"     "I didn't have the vaguest idea what would happen," I answered calmly. "How could I?"     "Well, one possibility is that you and Marsha Morgan planned your public debut in advance."     "And how could we have done that? I met Marsha Morgan after the meeting."     "So you built a relationship with Marsha Morgan ... became the intended victim of a murderer ... and almost got yourself killed ..." he fumbled for the right words, "by accident?"     "Neither by accident, nor on purpose. I am an innocent bystander."     "Why don't I believe you?"     I raised my right hand. "I've told you the whole truth and nothing but the truth, guv'nor . I went to the chamber meeting to find a few new clients--not to put myself in the middle of a murderous mess." Copyright (c) 2001 Ron and Janet Benrey. All rights reserved.