Published: 5th March 2018
Genre: Domestic Thriller
Trigger warnings: Suicide, child death
Beth has always known there was something strange about her daughter, Hannah. The lack of emotion, the disturbing behaviour, the apparent delight in hurting others… sometimes Beth is scared of her, and what she could be capable of.
Luke comes from the perfect family, with the perfect parents. But one day, he disappears without trace, and his girlfriend Clara is left desperate to discover what has happened to him.
As Clara digs into the past, she realises that Luke’s life is now in danger because of the lies once told and the secrets once kept. Can she find him before it’s too late?
This is a thriller that uses the technique of dual timelines to very good effect. The outcome is a dark and gripping read with a sinister atmosphere that spans past and present, containing a multitude of twists. All of this combined to keep me flipping the pages in an intense determination to find out what happens, and it does not disappoint.
A feeling of menace and foreboding persists throughout, along with a very fast pace which ensures that the plot hardly pauses for breath. I was constantly kept guessing and at one point had to pause in order to process everything that had happened, as the fascinating secrets that many of the characters were hiding steadily unravelled.
Events begin in 1986, where Beth and her husband Doug have been wanting to have children for a number of years until Hannah finally comes along. At first they are thrilled and all appears to be well, but over time Beth notices that Hannah has an anti-social personality and becomes frightened by her behaviour, which only escalates further after she overhears a fateful conversation.
Then we move forward to the present day, where Clara reports her husband Luke missing after he fails to return home from work one evening. She was completely in love with him and living her best life, but soon she discovers that Luke was cheating on her with a work colleague, and had received a series of threatening emails.
Along with their friend Mac, Clara begins to look into Luke’s past. Meanwhile, his parents are seemingly the perfect couple, but their daughter Emily left home at eighteen and has not been in contact ever since. As the mystery deepens and Clara starts to fear for her own safety, it becomes evident that there is much more to Rose and Oliver than meets the eye.
It is only late on in the book where the full picture eventually emerges, and it reveals a plot that is cleverly woven together. Although I had occasional problems with the writing style, there is no way I could possibly fault the story, which was utterly engrossing. Some of twists could be predicted, but there were others that I just never saw coming.
The chapters mostly alternate between the two storylines. Beth is written in the first person, and that enables her helplessness to shine through more powerfully. A lot of these chapters end with hints about what happened next, an unsubtle yet effective way of making me read on! Meanwhile, Clara’s perspective is told in the third person present, which successfully maintains a high level of tension.
A lot of the characters either possess flaws or are hiding insidious secrets, so that does not make them the most likeable bunch. However, I did not really mind on this occasion as they all helped to create a cracking plot. My favourite was probably Beth, who I often came to sympathise with as her story became increasingly tragic.
Clara was a good protagonist. I liked her caring nature and determination to get to the truth, but there were also times where she could be quite abrasive and I was less enthused about that. Rose and Oliver are perhaps the most complex characters in the book, but the most memorable is unquestionably Hannah. She was scary, unpredictable, and inherently evil.
The ending was dramatic and brought one further twist, which was interesting but not completely unexpected. All the same, the final pages were very ominous and that was a pleasant departure from the all too convenient resolutions we see in a lot of thrillers. It was just the writing that was not always to my taste; among other things it contained too many adverbs.
Overall, this was a book with a riveting plot that was told over the course of two equally enthralling timelines. It brought a perpetual amount of mystery and tension, while Hannah is a character who be difficult to forget in a hurry. Along with its super fast pace, these things ensure that The Lies We Told is a hugely enjoyable read.
This was an exciting and engrossing thriller that was full of great twists and intriguing secrets.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐