Psychological mystery recommendation: White Lies

Just finished Anna Salter’s novel, White Lies. The book was published 10 years ago, so you may have already come across this great read. If not, Dr. Salter is a forensic psychologist with expertise in the area of sex offending. I highly recommend the book if you want to see how a psychologist goes about gathering data on a perpetrator so as to recommend treatment or predict future re-offending.

What I found most interesting was her use of sentence analysis (written and spoken) to highlight how we tend to deceive self and others. Lying comes in what we say and don’t say. At one point, the offender (a doctor) states that he started his residency at such-and-such a place but never mentions where he finishes it. She evaluates the sentence and tells the reader that the offender has told more of the truth than he planned. No one would say they started it somewhere unless they didn’t finish it there. Instead, you would say, “I did my residence at…”

Her work reminds me of some training I got from Eric Ostrov as an intern at a juvenile jail facility. Dr. Ostrov told us that people generally want to confess their sins–or at least a more acceptable version of them. They make themselves passive in an event, they confess a sin they wished they committed (e.g., crossing sexual lines with a client who seduced them) rather than the sin they did commit (inviting and manipulating a client into a sexual situation).

Long ago I had aspirations of becoming a forensic psychologist. In fact, I did some training and practice in my pre and post doc and had a job offer lined up. I ended up choosing to come to Biblical Seminary. While I don’t regret that choice, the work of exploring self and other deception still interests me.

Anybody out there read her other two novels: Fault Lines or Shiny Water?

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Filed under Abuse, counseling and the law, counseling science, Good Books, self-deception

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