Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Lying In Wait – Liz Nugent

Psychological Thriller 5*s
Psychological Thriller

Unravelling Oliver is a book that completely wowed me back in 2014; starting from the killer first line of this assured debut:

‘I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.’

Needless to say I was stupidly excited when news tweeted out that Liz Nugent had a second novel on the way, but excitement tempered by slight apprehension; would the second book ever live up to that eye-opener of a debut?

I finally settled down, opened the book and read the first line of Lying In Wait:

‘My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.’

Now we all know that one line doesn’t make a novel, but you can’t deny that this is an author who has nailed that module about capturing the reader’s attention from the start!

So we know that Lydia, wife to Andrew Fitzsimons, resident of the large house that is Avalon and mother to Laurence knows that her husband has killed a woman. What is to be revealed is how, why and whether the crime is going to be discovered.

The first line refers to an event in 1980 but arguably has its roots far back in history and unusually for books that feature the big reveal in the first line, the author hasn’t structured the book in reverse; rather we look backwards and forwards in time through three narrators; Lydia, Laurence and Karen.

From the off it is clear that Lydia is a snob, no other word for it and to say she seems a little bit on the controlling side is to put it mildly. Laurence however is just a teenaged boy when the book opens, an obese bullied boy who is hampered by his mother’s phobias. Karen is a working class girl, she works in a dry-cleaners and misses her younger sister Annie. What is great about the writing is that these characters are bought to life piece by piece so that the different facets of what really make them tick, how they think and how they act are all gradually revealed. And our three narrators don’t only tell us about themselves. Through them we get to know Andrew, his mother, Annie’s parents and a host of other secondary characters including a hapless girlfriend along the way. This book certainly won’t leave you bored for a single sentence, with every word seemingly vitally important.

I could liberally gush on for hours about the perfect time setting, with the smallest of touches to keep it real without ever causing me to move out of the story to remember that brand or that song, so enthralling is the writing. The book is set in Ireland, with enough idioms, especially when Karen is speaking to keep that to the forefront of the mind, and I could perfectly visualise Avalon, the Fitzsimons house, in my mind’s eye.

Liz Nugent is a master of the cliff-hanger and many of the short chapters have a final sentence that simply begs the reader to keep going, especially as there are three separate strands of the story to keep abreast of with each one giving just enough information to flesh out the storyline a little bit more. Beware this is a book that will steal your time away, please clear your diary in advance.

Now I know I haven’t told you anything about the plot during this review, suffice to say it is engaging, well-paced and realistic when put into context of the characters involved. I’m not willing to say anything further because you really do need to read this one for yourself with as few preconceptions as possible.

In short reading this book felt like watching a car crash in slow motion; you simply know that bad things are just around the corner but how big the bang and how far the debris will spread is unknown and I will be recommending this just as widely as I did Unravelling Oliver. I sincerely hope that Liz Nugent is working hard on a third book for me to gorge myself on.

I’d like to say a big thank you to the publishers Penguin who kindly sent me a copy of this book. This review is my unbiased thank you to them.

Publication Date UK: 14 July 2016
Publisher: Penguin
No of Pages 316
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Tarnished – Julia Crouch

Women's Fiction 4*'s
Women’s Fiction

I thought Cuckoo, the debut from Julia Crouch was a really good read, although I wasn’t as impressed with the author’s second book Every Vow You Break, so I had reservations before reading this book which I received through Amazon Vine. I’m really glad I gave it a go; an intriguing story backed up by skilful writing meant that this was an enjoyable read.

Peg has no childhood memories of being brought up by her lovely grandmother, Dolly in the same house as her obese aunt Jean. When Dolly starts suffering from dementia Peg decides to track down her father but maybe she should have left the past where it was? Peg is in a relationship with a much stronger partner, Loz who is pushing her to find out what it was that the family are reluctant to reveal to Peg. Events soon take a very dark turn as the two women dig into the past.

Julia Crouch manages to raise the tension in this book with the aid of Peg’s slowly returning , memories, the descriptions of the house where Dolly has hoarded stuff and Jean’s obesity are so well described it made my skin crawl. The reader may need to suspend a certain level of belief, particularly towards the end but it is no less thrilling for that. A book to become absorbed in and to be repulsed by in equal measures, I can’t wait for the next one.

See my reviews for Julia Crouch’s previous books

Every Vow you Break

Every Vow You BreakEvery Vow You Break by Julia Crouch

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m afraid I didn’t enjoy this story as much as Julia Crouch’s debut [[ASIN:B004P8ITIS Cuckoo] which I thought was a great read.

The first half of this book seemed to meander introducing us to Lara, her actor husband Marcus and their 3 children, teenage twins Olly and Bella plus 4 year old Jack. They are moving to Trout Island in New York as Marcus has been asked to play the lead part in MacBeth at the local theatre. There are lots of bemusing happenings in the creepy house, Olly finds some local layabouts and Bella falls in love. Meanwhile Lara decides that she is no longer in love with her husband partly due to her recent abortion which she felt he’d forced her into. It’s fair to say the break isn’t going to plan.

After the very long build up, during which I didn’t warm to any of the characters, an awful lot happens in the last few chapters. As the main revelation had been fairly heavily signposted earlier, it wasn’t as exciting as it could have been. There are still a fair number of loose ends by the end of the book which added to my disappointment.

Hopefully Julia Crouch’s next offering will be more to my taste.

View all my reviews


CuckooCuckoo by Julia Crouch

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I liked this book and it certainly held my attention, I was eager to find out what happens to Polly and Rose the two best friends from Brighton who’d first met at the age of 7.

The book is set in a rural part of England near Bath and describes the pain and pleasures of renovating a home to bring up the perfect family, then…. Polly’s husband Christos has died and she wants to bring her boys back from Greece and Polly offers to let them stay.

At first I sympathised with Rose but as the book goes on it is slowly revealed how she is no innocent. The relationships between all the characters are well defined, Rose and her husband Gareth have recently gone through a bad patch and he is reluctently persuaded to let Polly stay, then things start to unravel but whose fault is it? I can’t say too much without spoiling the story but no character in this book is a role model.

I have wavered between a 4 and 5 start review mainly because I wasn’t overly convinced by the last section when Rose and Polly visit Brighton but make no mistake this is a great debut book and is not to be missed.

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