Do We Really Know the People We Know? (and a New Release)

by Kassandra Lamb

While writing my July 4th novella (which is releasing today, 19 days late, but, hey, it’s still July at least), I stumbled on an interesting and disturbing question. How well do we really know the people we know?

Unless we own a lie detector, how do we really know who we know?
Unless we own a lie detector (and our friends and acquaintances are willing to submit to it) how do we really know the people we know? (photo by Marcin Wichary from National Museum of Crime & Punishment, Washington, CC-BY-2.0, Wikimedia)

When we meet someone new—a new neighbor, co-worker, friend of a friend we meet at a party—we ask them about themselves. Where are they from, what do they do for a living, etc. And unless their eyeballs are bouncing around like jumping beans or they break out in a cold sweat, we take their answers on face value.

And after we’ve “known” them for a while, we assume we do truly know them, and all the things they’ve told us about themselves become solidified in our minds as fact.

But how do we really know the people we know are telling the truth?

A new employer or landlord will run a background check, or at least check one’s credit, but those we meet socially, we assume they are who and what they say they are.

In A Star-Spangled Mayfair, the mystery the protagonist Marcia (pronounced Mar-see-a, not Marsha) is trying to sort out revolves around her friend, Jess, who runs the local diner. When Jess becomes the prime suspect in her fiancé’s murder, Marcia discovers that the fiancé is not who he said he was.

Then Will Haines, Marcia’s significant other—who also happens to be a police detective—raises the issue of whether they truly know Jess:

“Look,” Will said, “when you think about it, what do we really know about Jess? All we know of her background is what she’s told us, and that’s precious little. She could be a Black-Widow type, on the run from other jurisdictions after knocking off multiple husbands and fiancés.”

I pulled away from him a little. “Will, she’s terrified of fireworks. No way would she have gotten anywhere near where they were actually setting them off, much less pick up one, light it and point it at her fiancé. It’s just ludicrous.”

He shook his head. “And how do you know she’s phobic of fireworks?”

“She–” My body slumped. “She told me so.”

from A Star-Spangled Mayfair, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, #8

By the end of that scene, Marcia is even questioning if she truly “knows” Will. After all, she’s yet to meet his family.

I don’t have an answer to the question do we really know the people we know. I just found it rather amazing that I’d never really thought about it before. Oh, it’s often a premise in fiction—the character who isn’t what they seem—but in real life, most of us blithely go along assuming everything that everybody has told us about themselves is true.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten you, and myself, all paranoid about our friends and neighbors, here are the details about the book. It wasn’t intended to raise profound questions … mostly it’s just a fun read.

A Star-Spangled Mayfair, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, #8

A Star-Spangled Mayfair cover

A flamboyant fiancé, a “Mob Killer” Roman candle, a yappy rescue dog, and a bison bull named Tarzan.

A recipe for chaos and calamity for Marcia’s introverted friend, Jess Randall.

When not serving up her to-die-for eggs and biscuits at the Mayfair Diner, Jess just wants to live quietly on their farm. But her fiancé Dan has impulsively offered to host the Mayfair Independence Day Extravaganza.

The day of the big bash, Marcia and her dog Buddy witness a public fight between the couple, and just hours later, Dan is found with a Roman candle through his chest. Was it an accident, or was it murder? And is Jess a killer, as the sheriff’s department believes?

Between dog-training sessions, Marcia feels compelled to investigate, especially when there are signs that the real killer may not be finished… Could Jess be the next target?

Just $0.99 for a limited time! (Goes up to $2.99 later.)

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Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and the cozy series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

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6 thoughts on “Do We Really Know the People We Know? (and a New Release)

  1. Shannon Esposito

    LOL, well great… now I’m wondering about my neighbors. Where did they get the money for that new car? Just kidding, I’d like to think people are mostly honest, but I do listen to my intuition when meeting new people. Congrats on the new release! I enjoyed this one. 🙂

    Reply
  2. K.B. Owen

    Congrats on the release, Kass!

    There’s an old joke: “Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re NOT out to get you.” That’s the trouble with suspicion (the flip side of trusting because you think you’ve known someone)…things go wrong just often enough to reinforce the idea that we should be suspicious, and then we start questioning everything.

    Gotta love human nature, LOL!

    Best wishes for a fab release!

    Reply
  3. Vinnie Hansen

    Congratulations, Kassandra!

    I recently learned that someone I’ve known since I was fourteen, someone I liked, someone I attended confirmation classes with, is currently in prison for sex with an underaged girl (don’t know how young). I’m definitely grappling with the question you pose. I never would have suspected this person in a million years–deep roots in my home community, well-liked, a church-going married man. There was a huge ick factor to learning this that goes beyond the deed itself.

    Reply
  4. Kassandra Lamb

    Oh my! I can definitely see why the ick factor, Vinnie. That’s a major betrayal of the trust of the community.

    Reply

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