Two Truths and a Lie: A Murder, a Private Investigator, and Her Search for Justice
EDGAR AWARD FINALIST • A private investigator revisits the case that has haunted her for decades and sets out on a deeply personal quest to sort truth from lies.
CLUE AWARD FINALIST • “[A] haunting memoir, which also unfolds as a gripping true-crime narrative . . . This is a powerful, unsettling story, told with bracing honesty and skill.”—The Washington Post
A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice • One of Marie Claire’s Ten Best True Crime Books of the Year
Ellen McGarrahan was a young journalist for The Miami Herald in 1990 when she witnessed the botched execution of convicted killer Jesse Tafero: flames and smoke and three jolts of the electric chair. When evidence later emerged casting doubt on Tafero’s guilt, McGarrahan found herself haunted by his fiery death. Had she witnessed the execution of an innocent man?
Decades later, McGarrahan, now a successful private investigator, is still gripped by the mystery and infamy of the Tafero case, and decides she must investigate it herself. Her quest will take her around the world and deep into the harrowing heart of obsession, and as questions of guilt and innocence become more complex, McGarrahan discovers she is not alone in her need for closure. For whenever a human life is taken by violence, the reckoning is long and difficult for all.
A rare and vivid account of a private investigator’s real life and a classic true-crime tale, Two Truths and a Lie is ultimately a profound meditation on truth, grief, complicity, and justice.
Praise for Two Truths and a Lie: A Murder, a Private Investigator, and Her Search for Justice
“The experience of inhabiting that investigation with McGarrahan is so intense readers should experience it for themselves. For me, the even deeper draw here is McGarrahan’s struggle to come to terms with the evil she was drawn into as a young reporter.”—Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air
“Extremely entertaining . . . McGarrahan’s obsession with rooting out the truth in the case leads her [to] Florida, Ireland and Australia, where she tracks down any detail that might potentially help her know what happened.”—The New York Times
“This riveting read is the memoir of a reporter–turned–private investigator who looks back at the case that snagged her imagination.”—Marie Claire
“[A] compelling true-crime debut.”—Bustle
“A spellbinding memoir . . . Among the truest of true crime stories ever written . . . McGarrahan’s story renders the tawdriness and banality of crime, the frustrating limits of witnesses and evidence, the hazy frontier between truth and lies, the slipperiness of culpability.”—The Washington Post
“Both admirable and harrowing . . . I highly recommend Two Truths and a Lie if you’re looking for a gripping, fast-paced book with a thoughtful and insightful premise.”—True Crime Index
“In these beautifully written pages we find both a page-turning whodunit and a sobering assessment of the American justice system.”—Heather Ann Thompson, author of Blood in the Water
“Two Truths and a Lie is a masterpiece—more honest than In Cold Blood and more profound than The Executioner’s Song. A brilliant addition to the literature of crime and punishment.”—David Von Drehle, New York Times bestselling author of Triangle
“Both mesmerizing page-turner and haunting meditation on various shades of guilt . . . As the best stories do, Two Truths and a Lie leads us through a fascinating case at breakneck speed, until we find ourselves confronting the elusive nature of truth itself.”—Claudia Rowe, author of The Spider and the Fly
“My heart was in my throat through each page of this captivating memoir of a private investigator’s search for truth, justice, and resolution.”—Sarah Gerard, author of Sunshine State
“McGarrahan’s eagle eye and relentless drive to learn the truth—whatever it may be—carry us with her on this powerful and fascinating journey.”—Eilene Zimmerman, author of Smacked
“Journalist and private investigator McGarrahan’s debut is an engrossing, authoritative fusion of true crime and memoir . . . An accomplished, unsettling look at a confounding crime and larger issues of memory, culpability, and punishment.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Riveting . . . gut-wrenchingly good.”—Shelf Awareness