Thursday, 25 June 2020

Emma's Review: Liar by Lesley Pearse

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

In a Shepherd's Bush bedsit, Amelia White dreams of being a reporter. The closest she's come is selling advertising in the local paper.

Until the fateful day she stumbles on a truly shocking scoop.

Round the corner from her home, she discovers the body of a murder victim, dumped among the rubbish. When the police and reporters descend, Amelia is horrified at the assumptions made and lies soon to be spread about this poor young woman.

Determined to protect the victim from these smears and help her grieving family, she convinces her paper's editor to allow her to take up her pen and tell the true story.

But when another body is found and the police investigation stalls, Amelia - uncovering new witnesses and suspects in her search for clues - discovers that she may be the only one with any chance of learning the truth and stopping more killings.

If only she can work out who the liar is . . .

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Many thanks to Megan from ED Public Relations for my copy of Liar to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

For years Lesley Pearse has been my favourite author, top of the list of my go-to reads with every book that she publishes. Every book she has ever written sits proudly on my bookshelves and I am delighted to be able to add another brilliant read Liar to that collection. This is her 28th novel and the standard is as high as ever. As soon as this riveting new story popped through my letter box anything else, I was reading was put to one side and I just dove straight in to read this book which I devoured in just two sittings.

Liar is an absorbing, tense and thrilling read and I felt the author had gone back to the style of some of her earlier books, back to where it all began and where my attention was first caught by this amazing writer. This reverting back to the style I had always loved was a good thing not bad in any sense of the word. A good old fashioned mystery was at its heart and our main character Amelia was a fantastically written character whose strength and determination to uncover the truth radiated from every page.

In the first quarter or so of the book I did think were things going to be solved all too easily and quickly? Things seemed fairly obvious and clear cut but no its testament to the brilliant writing of Lesley Pearse, and her ability to lead readers up the garden path, that made this book really gripping and a stand out read that things didn’t play out the way I initially expected them too. Yes, I did have my suspicions and I thought this seems to much of a cop out and too straight forward and that things would perhaps be resolved far to early on in the book and where would the rest of the plot go? But then with a particular word or the way a simple sentence was constructed my views and opinions were turned on their head.

I did figure out who was the actual culprit but none the less this did not in any way detract from my enjoyment of the story. Instead I wanted to really get into the mind of said person to understand their reasons and motivations for their actions. Too often authors leave the reader hanging in that, yes we know who did it so to speak but then that’s it. We never get solid and detailed further explanations but thankfully that wasn’t the case here. Lesley Pearse skilfully weaves a story that delivers on all fronts, I was taken on an exhilarating journey through 1970’s London with a twisty and clever plot that made this a read very difficult to leave out of your hands for any length of time.

The summer of 1970 in Shepherd’s Bush London, Amelia, who works for a local newspaper The West London Weekly (although albeit in a very minor role), is walking on the street. The rubbish is piled high as the bin men have been on strike. Suddenly she spots a pair of white boots poking out from amongst a pile of rubbish. They look brand new and she takes a step closer to investigate wondering who could have thrown out such a gorgeous pair of shoes that she herself would really like? But as she pulls on them she makes a horrifying discovery. The boots are attached to a body and with this gruesome encounter little does Amelia realise that her life is about to change and will venture down some dark and unnerving paths. A man arrives on the scene, a man she has never seen before, but he introduces himself as Max and says that he lives close by. He offers support and help. The police are called and an investigation is launched. Who could have murdered such a young girl and left her body in a place that was so easily accessible and where any number of people could have stumbled upon such a horrendous sight?

I thought it was the perfect thing to have Amelia’s chosen career that of a journalist. Yes she was very much on the bottom rung of the ladder selling advertising spaces that people pay little attention to at the corner of a page but still you could glimpse that she had a long term goal career wise and was brave and strong enough to achieve it. Anyone else would have tried to deal with what they witnessed and move on but Amelia’s interest is sparked and as she is trying to write a book on the side she believes looking into things that little bit further will give her the experience and the ideas that she needs. Combined with the fact that other journalists are spreading lies about the victim and it’s almost as if a smear campaign has begun, Amelia is determined to seek justice and the truth for the girl.

Amelia herself came from a tough background and now she has nothing to do with her family. She has a made a new life for herself and continuously wants to better herself pushing thoughts of her childhood firmly from her mind. Her childhood really shaped the person she is today and informs the choices she makes and the investigative approach she launches into. She had always believed had never belonged with her family and they had dragged her down with their negativity and nastiness and up to this point Amelia had been lonely with her life not going the way she had wanted but now with this surprising discovery her life changes. Will it be for the good or even make things worse? Will it prove more dangerous than she could have ever believed possible?

I loved how the super sleuth in Amelia really began to emerge yet she showed her vulnerable side too. I think she felt some sort of kinship with the murdered girl and she wanted some justice for her. Yet her own traumatic childhood still prevented her from being gung ho, full of confidence and she used her flat as a retreat and sanctuary. Max becomes something more than a friend in her life but I wasn’t overly keen on him. He seemed too good to be true and it was as if he just magically appeared in her life when she needed someone. Some of the scenes in which he featured he just appeared to be very domineering and that he was controlling Amelia and he started to undermine her decisions. Perhaps she was too caught up in investigating the murder to notice?

No doubt about it, Amelia was courageous, plucky and caring and as further murders occur she really tries to enter the mindset of the victims in order to find the killer. One thing I did question throughout the book was that, would a journalist really get such easy access to grieving families to ask such deep and probing questions? Amelia was in the family members homes wanting to know the backgrounds to the all the girls that turn up dead and in real life would this have happened? That’s my only very minor issue and really it’s me being very picky but if it helped bring the story together than who am I to bring it up?

Liar moves along at a cracking pace. It’s very well plotted and just when you think you have things figured out, off the author goes and takes you down another unexpected path. One which you hadn’t considered but then a few pages further along you think ah this is what’s going on and how clever it actually all is. You can tell that Lesley Pearse really enjoyed writing this book and she has captured the time period of the 70’s perfectly and the overall tone she has established is just perfect. It’s dark when it needs to be as a serious subject is being investigated but there are also glimpses of hope and bravery as Amelia is a character where admiration for her grows and grows the further you read.

I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending Liar. It’s an addictive read and for someone who is not the biggest fan of crime or thrillers, well books that are solely based in this genre, I found this to be the perfect balance between mystery and crime with some romance and emotion as well. Lesley Pearse really can turn her hand to any time period or setting and she has once again written a stunning book that will have you up reading long into the night and only reaffirmed for me that she is my all time favourite author.

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