Friday, 10 June 2016

"Lying in Wait" Liz Nugent

Lying in Wait
I first saw this book listed on cleopatralovesbooks.wordpress.com "Stacking the Shelves" post and knew that I had to read it!

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

This has got to be a top contender for novel with the best opening line! And it doesn't just stop after the first line - I had raced through the first chapter without even noticing.

"Lying in Wait" is about respected judge Andrew and his reclusive wife Lydia, who become irrevocably mixed up with drug addict and prostitute Annie. One of the most compelling things about this story was the way it fused the lives of two very different families, from very different backgrounds - different accents, values, wealth and education. Their paths should never have crossed; only they did, at first quite deliberately and then by chance. Both encounters changing the lives of every character in the book forever.

So as with all well written, fast paced thrillers, the book opens with a dramatic scene - in this case we are presented with Andrew, Lydia and a dead body. Immediately we are filled with curiosity. They are a respectable couple living in a large property with high profile jobs and positions in society - how could they possibly be involved with a dead body of a young girl? Is it an accident? Is it murder? And what of their son Laurence, seemingly disengaged from his family and over protected by his mother, is he really as naive as Lydia believes?

The narrative alternates between the voices of Lydia, Laurence and Karen (Annie's sister). Each is distinctive and realistic. The rotation of perspectives help not only to create tension and compulsive reading but also accentuate the menace of Lydia, vulnerability of Karen and awakening of Laurence. The story also returns to the 1980s to trace the story from its roots, gradually moving forward to the present day of 2016. The pace and structure are well crafted to intensify the spine chilling atmosphere evoked by the characters and events.

Lydia is an absolute monster. She is one of the most captivatingly frightening characters I have met in a little while. I found it very refreshing to read a book where the wife is actually the one with the power and strength; the husband the pitiable victim. She is the original Lady MacBeth. She is unrelentingly calculating, manipulative and controlling. Her feelings for her son are worryingly all consuming. She has the drive, ambition and maternal love to rival any Shakespearean or legendary matriarch. Her forward planning is as cunning and incredible as Amy's in "Gone Girl". Even in her descent into madness, revelation of her past family life and her more recent pain of trying to have children, limited sympathy is created as she remains so ruthless, cruel, selfish and heartless. She is disturbing and I know I will not forget her anytime soon!

Laurence is an interesting character. Not always likeable, at first he appears to be a bit of a victim; weak and naive. But as the novel progresses, the reader sees him learn to understand himself more and begin to exert more control and direction over his own life. Some moments of this transition are cringe-worthy and some reveal an unpleasant side, but there is also some redemption and some cause to feel an inkling of sympathy.

Karen is a very likeable character - and much needed in this dark tale. She is a survivor, a fighter and a very straight character in comparison to Lydia and Laurence who seem to thrive on disguise and deceit.

The collision of the two families and the impact of their past actions on each other makes for a fascinating plot twist. Although extremely dramatic, the "penny dropping" moments are exquisitely handled, slowly presenting themselves. I found myself holding my breath as I watched the action unveil itself in front of my eyes. This is the work of an accomplished storyteller.

Issues of how we present ourselves publicly, privately, to our family, to our loved ones are all explored in this book. Nugent also raises questions about reputation, prejudice, judgement and entitlement. But most of all deception, secrets and the extremities of a mother's love for a child. As another reviewer on Goodreads commented, this book shows how madness and matriarch can be mixed together with chilling effect.

As well as Lady Macbeth - the ultimate controller and domineering wife whose desire for power leads to a descent into madness- Lydia also reminded me of great female villains like the nanny in "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle". I was also reminded of Diana Rigg in the 1989 BBC TV series "Mother Love" - if anyone remembers that!!

I have literally just finished reading this a couple of hours ago and have read it in about 2 sittings. I think this book is truly a psychological thriller - the protagonist is seriously psychologically frightening and the ending made me shudder, sending real shivers down my spine. This novel is a little different from some of the other thrillers currently on the shelves as it is as much about the relationship between a mother and a son rather than a murder. It feels more controlled and sedate in some ways, probably because of the grand setting of the family house Avalon, the agoraphobic behaviour of Lydia, the sheltered life of Laurence and the family's preference for a rather solitary existence. But this does not in any way mean it is not an edge of your seat, gripping read. I found it a refreshing take on the genre and was even more delighted to find out it was Nugent's second novel which means I can read more of her - something I am very keen to do!

My thanks to @cleo_bannister for bringing this book to my attention and NetGalley for sending me an advanced copy in return for an honest review.

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