Thursday, 14 August 2014

Guest Book Review: Louise Douglas - Your Beautiful Lies

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Annie Howarth is living a restless life in a restless town. It's 1984 and for a mining community in South Yorkshire, the strikes mean tensions are running high. Then a murdered girl is found on the moors and the anxiety levels are pushed to a dangerous breaking point.

Married to the Chief of Police, Annie should feel safe - William can be secretive, though surely whatever he's hiding is for her own good.

But Annie is keeping her own secrets. Ten years ago the man she loved was ripped from her life in a scandal that still haunts the both of them, and now his return will put her family, her marriage, even her life, at risk.

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Louise Douglas has written four previous novels but Your Beautiful Lies is the first book I have read by this author. Set in 1984 in the mining town of Matlow in Yorkshire against the backdrop of the miner’s strike the story focuses on Annie Howarth who is married to the Chief of Police William. Annie lives in a beautiful restored house called Everwell near to the moors. Here she raises her daughter Elizabeth and helps care for her mother-in-law Ethel who suffers from dementia. Annie lives an uneventful, routine life until one day the body of a young girl is discovered in an isolated area of the moors, the peace and quiet of the town is disrupted as suspicion grows. But Annie is hiding her own secrets and sooner or later things will come back to haunt her as the man she once loved returns after many years away for something he claims he had no part of.

I have to be totally honest and say I really struggled with the first half of this book, normally this genre wouldn’t be for me. There was just an overwhelming sense of doom and gloom and a real oppressive feeling. None of the characters seemed to be happy at all and I felt like I was trudging through each chapter (even though they were very short) with not much happening. The only character I liked at this point was Johnnie -Annie’s brother who seemed cheerful and determined to get on with life even though his father picketing the mine was having an awful effect on the day to day life of his family. Annie’s routine was described in too much detail and it became quite repetitive to read - get up, breakfast, bring Elizabeth to school, shopping, home, make tea etc. Also Annie really didn’t seem happy in her relationship with William which made me think why in god’s name did they even get married in the first place? Only with the arrival of Annie’s old flame Tom did the story pick up.

Then halfway through for some reason the story really turned around for me, I started to care more for Annie and the life she had to live knowing things could have been so much different had circumstances not intervened so many years ago. I could see how cold and passionless William was, he was obsessed with his job and finding the murderer so much so that Annie felt abandoned, unwanted and unloved. I can’t exactly justify Annie’s actions but can see her need to escape her ordinary life and the pressures put upon her from her mother. She became reckless and put herself first but at what cost to her marriage?

Louise Douglas then built up the tension extremely well, the atmosphere became very heavy and at times there was a menacing feeling with what was going on. A mark of a good author this pressure cooker feeling kept me turning the pages eager to find out who the murderer was and how Annie’s situation would play out. I thought oh this is too easy I know exactly who killed the girl - just from subtle hints and lines dropped in every now and then. But Louise Douglas led me completely up the wrong path and I was delighted to be proved wrong. Some may feel the ending was too abrupt and unsatisfactory but I felt it was totally suitable and the book couldn’t have ended any other way. Overall after a shaky start I enjoyed the book and was glad I read it. Betrayal, deception, secrets, lies, corruption, twists and turns this book had it all. I may just have to check out what else Louise Douglas has written and slowly but surely I am being converted to a new genre outside my usual women’s fiction which is surely a good thing.

I'd like to thank Emma for reviewing this eBook which we received from the publisher via NetGalley.

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