Father Duncan turns up again, in Why Men Lie, as the brother of the central character, Effie Gillis. A history professor in her early 50s, Effie has two failed marriages behind her, and a chance encounter with an old friend, successful and confident broadcaster JC Campbell, leads to a new romance.
But there's baggage everywhere. Her husbands were each other's cousins, everyone in her social group seems to know each other from way back and Effie has unresolved abuse issues from her childhood in Cape Breton. We read that, as long ago as 1970, Effie was attracted to a man because he was "unburdened by history", but such a thing seems impossible, especially in her life.
Effie's at the stage where she thinks she's seen it all, but JC brings with him a preoccupation with darkness after a career reporting from the world's most troubled places. He's compelled to look that darkness in the eye, actively campaigning in the case of a Canadian prisoner on death row in Texas.
After an incident involving an escaped cat, a rooftop and some angry neighbours, JC is hospitalised and, once he's discharged, Effie can't help but notice changes in his behaviour. The tone takes on a more paranoid hue, and the gloom that has been hovering at the edges of the novel starts to close in. The suspense MacIntyre generates draws us into deeper psychological waters, closer to the source of Effie's fears, as he examines how deception is woven into the dynamics of relationships.
Despite being told from a woman's perspective, Why Men Lie is about men as well. MacIntyre even calls it "a guy book", and through his male characters he explores the fear of impotence (in a general sense) that middle age brings to men and their sense of themselves. At times, it can seem to meander and lose its sense of momentum, but it's a novel that rewards patience, raising questions that linger in the mind long afterwards.