Reviewed by Emma Crowley
'My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.'
Lydia Fitzsimons lives in the perfect house with her adoring husband and beloved son. There is just one thing Lydia yearns for to make her perfect life complete, though the last thing she expects is that pursuing it will lead to murder. However, needs must - because nothing can stop this mother from getting what she wants ...
There haven't been many books this year which I could say were beyond brilliant from start to finish and would feature in my books of the year come the end of December. Three or four at a push so far and it's not because I am fussy, yes I have read some great books this year but for me to give five stars or to think it could be a favourite for the year the book truly has to be extraordinary but thankfully I have found another one. Lying in Wait, the second book from Liz Nugent, is just amazing I still can't get it out of my head. I lay in bed the night after finishing the book and couldn't sleep so much was running through my head concerning the storyline. I had heard nothing but good things about this book and normally when this is the case and I go on to read said book I am left disappointed and wondering did I read a different book from everyone else? That's happened to me quite a bit this year but Lying in Wait deserves every bit of praise heaped upon it and it went way beyond my expectations. The quote on the cover from Sophie Hannah says 'a stunningly talented writer' and Liz certainly is and has confirmed it with a read that will get deep inside your head and leave you breathless as you race through the pages peeling back the many layers to this story.
I don't normally read crime/thriller books bar a few Scandinavian crime writers but everyone seemed to be obsessing over this book so I had to give it a try and I was so glad I did. I spent a few hours lost in the twisted, claustrophobic world of Lydia and Laurence and was left open mouthed at several points throughout. Lying in Wait was a tour de force that took me on a journey into the lives and minds of each of the characters and didn't relinquish its grip until the very last page where even then a surprise was thrown in.
'My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it'. What an incredible opening line that certainly packs a punch and instantly has you drawn into a story full of manipulation, tension and nerves throughout and gives us an insight into the twisted insane life of Lydia and her son Laurence. This book is not a story of who done it packed full of guards trying to solve the case as more murders occur, it's more why was Annie Doyle murdered and even when the reason is uncovered fairly early on this is not the focus of the book. Said reason is explained concisely but once the layers are peeled back there is a much bigger picture at play and it's how the author weaves the strands of the story together and delves deeper behind the psyche and past of each character that the reader understands how twisted, mad and disturbed one character is. All throughout the book there is an intense, dark, sinister, forbidding feeling as Laurence becomes ever more embroiled in something that occurred when he was still a teenager just about to turn eighteen.
Lying in Wait is told in three distinct voices those of Lydia, Laurence and Karen (the sister of Annie Doyle). Each chapter from whoever's point of view was strong and superbly written. Often when a book is told from various person's viewpoints I get bored with one person but here I couldn't wait to read of each perspective and how one person knew something the other didn't or how they viewed the same events in such radically different ways. The further I got into the book the more I read with increasing sense of disbelief at what was unfolding and also the sheer audacity of two of the major characters. It was becoming so utterly twisted and I would say depraved but I'm not sure is this the correct word to use in this case.
The book starts in 1980 as Lydia is married to a high court judge Andrew who is well respected in his profession. So what causes a couple with everything they could wish for to end up burying a prostitute in their back garden where they will forever look out the kitchen window at the floors covering their 'new flowerbed'? 'I like to think that I did the girl a kindness, like putting an injured bird out of its misery. She did not deserve such consideration'. This line alone gives the reader an insight into the mind of Lydia. Throughout the book I couldn't get over the fact she was so indifferent to everything that she was partaking in. She was the Queen of manipulation, mind games and control and yes she was evil and beyond messed up and in ways I did hate her but in others I felt a shred of sympathy because really it all had to stem from somewhere. I couldn't believe the further we read some of the things she does as the story moves forward five years later from the time in which Annie Doyle was murdered. The stress soon gets to Andrew and soon Laurence who had nothing to do with the events becomes embroiled in something he wished he knew nothing about. The day he discovered what had happened I'd say was the day he wished he had never been born into the family. Now poor Laurence is trapped at the family home Avalon not physically trapped as he works in the dole office but mentally trapped through the mind games and actions of a mother who he can't break free from due to what he knows and how she acts around him. Avalon is like a fortress Laurence tries to hold it together for the majority of that has some sort of power over Lydia she was born there, lived with her husband there and never really leaves. It has a creepy, sinister feel which permeates throughout the book.
Laurence isn't as detestable as Lydia, he does have some good, likeable characteristics but aspects of his childhood and the role he is expected to play weigh ever deeper and as he uncovers more and more secrets his personality just like his fluctuating weight (this aspect of the storyline was pure genius and just made me open mouthed with shock that someone could so something like that to someone they love but I suppose the person had no scruples) change. Laurence is a decent enough person who tries to uphold some morals but he really can't keep it up considering his mother is so messed up and in another way weak that she can't handle things herself. Laurence loved his mother and in a way he did love Helen and Karen at various points but the power of motherly love and that bond proved too strong. I felt he was too submissive to his mother and under her thumb and I wanted him to grow up and gain some confidence but I suppose he found himself embroiled in such a crazy, dangerous game that he felt no other option only to partake in it as he became deeper involved and manipulated in a situation vastly spiralling out of his control. I did think why on earth is Helen getting such prominence throughout the book and even Bridget too at some points? But each and every character were used to perfection. In the end I wanted to stand up and give Helen a clap not because I approved of what she did but just because it was so cunning and in a way so Irish and would be the ultimate come comeuppance.
Karen also gets to tell her story and being the sister of Annie she wants answers.She comes from a vastly different background to that of Lydia and Laurence and the author did a great job of demonstrating the differences between the two families. She showed the despair, hurt and anger the Doyle family were going through which was in stark contrast to the mind games and head wrecking ways of Lydia. I loved how Karen never gave up and wanted to know what had happened to her sister. What she discovers about Annie's background and life would have disgusted her but at the end of the day family is family. The connection that is established between Laurence and Karen was very cleverly done and really messed with my head. Karen constantly strayed into dangerous territory and I wanted to scream at her and tell her what was going on but I had to restrain myself and remember this was a fictional character.
Lying in Wait just kept building and building to an unbelievable climax which made for a more than impressive book. Liz Nugent has crafted an unbelievable book that has already been selected for Rick O'Shea's book club here in Ireland and it deserves to stay on the bestseller lists which has been on since release here. I hope this book reaches a wide audience as it showcases what a phenomenally good author Liz Nugent is. I would love to see it being selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club which would catapult Liz onto an even bigger stage or even to to be picked up by a production company. Lying in Wait on a Sunday evening would prove a talking point in the staffroom on a Monday morning for sure. Whatever book I choose to read next has a huge amount to live up to after this amazing book in fact book number three for Liz has high expectations too. I can only imagine what crazy, depraved direction we will venture to next.Lying in Wait is definitely one of my books of the year.
Many thanks to Penguin for my copy of Lying in Wait to review via NetGalley