I can’t resist an author that pushes the boundaries of their readers beliefs and Lisa Ballantyne is prepared to do just that in Little Liar.
The premise is quite straightforward. Upstanding businessman Nick Dean is at home when his life is ripped apart when the police come to his door and accuse him of inappropriate touching of young girl. And this girl is young, just twelve years old. She is part of a group he is teaching drama to at a local school. Nick Dean also has a wife and two children so the consequences of the accusation rock every facet of his life.
Angela Furness is the girl who has stated that Nick Dean inappropriately touched her. He did so behind the stage when he asked her to help with some equipment. She was too shocked to do anything at the time… There seems to be no reason for her to make anything up, sure she’s angry, she’s been violent at school but could this explain why?
The opening scene of the book is a fight between Angela and another girl called Jasmine. She’s no longer the keen child she was when she moved from primary to secondary school but in the intervening period her parents have split up, she’s a little girl angry at the world. Is she ripe for exploitation too?
Lisa Ballantyne is one of the ‘brave’ authors who challenge the orthodox views on subjects. I initially became a fan on reading The Guilty One which has the premise of one child killing another, one of the most inflammatory storylines you could choose and yet she wrote a thoughtful novel that challenges the masses to think about the story behind the headlines and appreciate the tragedy in its entirety and not from only one perspective. She works a similar feat within Little Liar. There is doubt about Angela’s story, she’s not painted as an appealing child but the reader is fully aware that at just twelve she can’t be considered on a par with a predatory adult. Nick’s story isn’t clear cut either. During any police investigation of this nature, secrets are bound to be unearthed, and some of those secrets may be hard for the friends and relations to handle. His guilt, or innocence, is up for judgement, have no qualms about that – you will judge and maybe your views will change with the evidence, maybe they won’t.
With both Nick and Angela under the microscope as the accusation seeps into their life it is natural that the wider family becomes involved. What happens if part of the family believes in your guilt and the others don’t. Well one thing for sure in fiction it tends to raise the tension to unbeatable levels. I needed to know the answer, and also what life would look like for all those we met along the journey.
With superb characterisation alongside the fearless nature of the twists and turns the author takes us through, this book was gripping with a capital G. The subject matter is a tough one but the author handles it sensitively, there aren’t graphic scenes of abuse but there is a real connection of the range of emotions that those at the centre, and on the side-lines, experience. Most of all this is a book that will make you think!
I’d like to thank the publisher Piatkus for allowing me to read a copy of Little Liar prior to publication in eBook format on 2 August 2018 and in paperback on 21 February 2019.