Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Your Beautiful Lies – Louise Douglas

Contemporary Fiction 4*'s
Contemporary Fiction

In South Yorkshire during 1984 the miners were striking and the squeeze on small mining towns was being felt by everyone, not just the miners but the shopkeepers too as police were drafted in from other areas to keep the peace. Tensions mounted within small towns where some miners continued to work while others stood on the picket line.

Annie Howarth lives in a secluded large house on the edge of the moors with her daughter Elizabeth and her husband William who is the Chief of Police and his elderly mother Ethel. One morning Annie’s brother Johnnie brings some dreaded news, Tom Greenway, who had been her boyfriend ten years ago, has been released from prison returned to live in the area. Tom had been convicted of manslaughter and at that time William had provided a strong pair of arms to comfort Annie along with all the trappings of a world unimagined as she lived amongst the other miners with her parents.

This books starts by feeling like it is a romance with an edge with what I consider to be a realistic look at the life of a young married woman in the 1980’s. At that time if a woman didn’t work outside the home, she was dependent on her husband and while William provided the material things in life he was not the most exciting of life partners, either out policing or in his study, a place where Annie wasn’t welcome. Annie’s relationship with her parents and her peers was badly damaged by Tom being convicted of manslaughter and in a small town memories linger her only companions now are the worthy and the good, wives of William’s colleagues and I had some sympathy with the dreariness of her days.

This soon turns into a much darker tale with everything changing when a woman is found murdered up on the moors and William has a murder to solve as well as the logistical headache of policing the pickets at the colliery. Tensions run high and William becomes increasingly concerned for Annie’s safety while she is torn by her feelings for the newly returned Tom.

The characters were well-drawn, I particularly liked Ethel who was not immune to the fact that all was not rosy between her son and daughter-in-law and unwittingly spills secrets that perhaps a woman not gripped by dementia would have been left unsaid. I was less fond of Marie, Annie’s mother but again this was an accurate portrayal of a woman determined to keep the status quo amongst a long-fractured relationship with her daughter.

Louise Douglas ratchets up the tension carefully while staying firmly in the time period. There are frequent mentions of phone calls made from phone boxes, bands from this era along with the quaint notion of letters arranging meetings. By the time I was half-way through the book, I was sure I knew not only whodunit but why; I was totally off-track as the shocking ending revealed.

I’d like to thank the publishers Random House UK for my copy of this book which was published on 14 August 2014.


A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

28 thoughts on “Your Beautiful Lies – Louise Douglas

  1. Cleo – I was wondering what you’d have to say about this one. I remember it caught my eye when you first mentioned it. I like the idea of that context (the strike) for one of the plot threads. And it sounds as though the characters are authentically drawn – something I always appreciate. I’m trying to do something about my TBR list, but I’ll probably add this one – thanks as ever for the excellent review.


    1. Another overburdened TBR? I thought Louise Douglas did a really good portrayal of families and relationships, Annie came across as quite passive in the beginning but once you take into account the background it is understandable… Thank you for your lovely remarks.


  2. Sounds intriguing! The whole miners strike era was when I was at my most political, so I remember it vividly. As an NHS worker at the time, our unions supported the miners’s union, and they reciproctaed when we were on strike. It’s like a different world looking back…


    1. Louise Douglas cleverly brought the change in times across but I think it’s hard to grasp how different things were then, despite the fact it was relatively recent. It was the first political event I was aware of as I lived close to the Welsh boarder where the miners were on strike and saw them asking for money for food etc.


      1. I know you’re a Reginald Hill fan like me – have you read Under World? I think the way he shows how the effects on communities lasted long after the strike itself is so accurate, even though overall the book isn’t one of my favourites of his.


        1. I have to be honest, I’m not entirely sure as this would have been in my pre-reviewing days. I’ve ordered myself a copy to be on the safe side – thank you! The whole aftermath destroyed those communities, something Your Beautiful Lies touches upon with communities, and sometimes families, divided by the stance they chose.


          1. 😆 Well, I count this a major success! I got you to add one on your own blog!! 😉 I hope you enjoy it – I think you will. Hill always manages to make the Yorkshire communities he talks about feel very real…


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