Book Review – They Lie Here by NS Ford

Pages: 271
Published: 4th November 2022
Genre: Domestic/Paranormal Thriller

This is the second book self-published by my book blogging friend NS Ford. As well as being a creative blogger, she is a very talented author!

Kat Green has made a career out of tracking down reclusive former celebrities. When she moves to the quaint English city of Waelminster, she’s on the trail of enigmatic pop star Roskoe Darke, of the band Scorpio Hearts.

He hasn’t been heard of since 1985, but she’s confident she’ll find him. However, as the clues become more bizarre and sinister, Kat has to confront the darkness of her own past. Who can she trust when everyone is hiding the truth?

This is a delightfully unique book that carries boundless amounts of intrigue across two very arresting storylines. As it intertwines a well crafted mystery with sound character development, there are many thoughtful and imaginative concepts to be found throughout a plot that successfully tackles real-world aspects while dipping its toe into the realms of the paranormal.

The result is something that you rarely want to put down. There is a lot to enjoy here, primarily due to the variety of layers within the story and how the two main timelines contrast with each other, and both of them leave you wanting to know more. Indeed, the ending is the only time where the overlap does not quite work, but other than that it has the components to enthral those who like all manner of genres.

Kat Green is a reclusive online journalist who moves from place to place, making it her business to haul former celebrities out of obscurity and back into the public eye. Her latest port of call is the town of Waelminster as she looks to track down enigmatic musician Roscoe Darke, who disappeared in 1985, just days after quitting the electronic rock band Scorpio Hearts.

The initial enquiries take her to a record store where she encounters Seth, a man who happens to be a Scorpio Hearts fanatic. They get talking and attend a concert by a tribute band that evening, while Kat also gets leads from an expert in synthesisers and Roscoe’s girlfriend at the time he vanished, but gains few clues as to his current whereabouts until she receives a mysterious message in response to one of her online forum posts.

Meanwhile, back in 1999 there was a famous pop duo called Cherry ‘N’ Blue, consisting of a boy and a girl who were both 12 years of age. They performed dance tunes together and presented an image to the world that they were the best of friends, but instead, away from the stage they were the most bitter of childhood enemies, playing tricks on each other until one night where one of them took matters a step to far.

The plot was seriously gripping, as with both the mystery of Roscoe and the antics of Cherry ‘N’ Blue, it ticks along very nicely and leaves you with a real thirst for information. The authenticity and depth of the characters also helps to complement that, and even when the paranormal element comes into play, it feels grounded enough in reality that it absolutely works. To be honest, just about every concept in this book is pretty cool.

It succeeds in terms of the pacing too, as everything ties together well and each chapter manages to advance the story. There are some clever twists and the odd red herring along the way, with certain characters not to be taken at face value. For the most part the whole thing is great, although I was not the biggest fan of how the two plotlines converged at the end as it meant there was a little too much going on and one or two existing plot strands could not be explored in more detail.

The present day timeline is told in the first person from the perspective of Kat, and right from the get-go she is a fascinating character. She is socially inept and all round just a bit of an avoider, but there are several layers to uncover as the story moves on. Even if you cannot fully connect with her as a person, you cannot help but share her curiosity about Roscoe, and she also has an admirable amount of resourcefulness.

Everything else is in the third person, with the Cherry ‘N’ Blue chapters focusing mainly on Cherry, and the writing really brings out the powerful dislike between the two, as well as the isolation that comes with being famous at a young age. They play tricks on each other a bit like in The Twits by Roald Dahl, only much more personal. Other than that, we have Scorpio Hearts song lyrics and excerpts from interviews with Roscoe and his bandmates, which provide intriguing insights.

Of the other characters, Seth is rather odd in a way and there definitely seems to be something not quite so genuine about him at quite an early stage, as he takes an immediate interest in Kat. There was a surprising number of secrets with Jenny, whose many half-truths contrast sharply with her politeness and geniality, while Colleen was compelling even if she gave so little away. Ellie was much the opposite; talkative and always wanting to help others, which made her very likeable.

Indeed, most of the characters in this book are complex, but none quite as much as Roscoe Darke. He has so many sides to his personality that we see in the flashbacks, but more than anything he is an extremely deep thinker with a very active, creative mind – perhaps similar to David Bowie in being slightly ahead of his time. Even the poster of him that Kat has on her wall is given an air of perceptiveness like the Mona Lisa. And also, see if you can think of any anagrams of his name…

Another impressive feature of the story is how well developed Waelminster is as a setting. For a fictional town, it really does feel believable as its history and culture are both well covered and bring something else to the plot. In the main it does seem like a perfectly normal place, but as things get intense the atmosphere changes and it feels more sinister.

The writing is accomplished and one of the great things is that you can rarely predict what will come next. All the different narratives are conveyed really well and given the complexity of each storyline and the attention to detail that was required, most of it neatly falls into place. Other than the issues towards the end, there are barely any negatives to speak of.

Overall, a riveting speculative thriller that excites with the unique mystery of Roscoe Darke and the equally absorbing feud between Cherry and Blue. The characters are full of depth and have you hooked throughout an impeccably paced plot which is full of interesting, well executed ideas, and never leaves a dull moment. A highly enjoyable read in a lot of ways.

I really liked this book. It was so intriguing and I loved all the concepts and character development. But for a few minor things, I might have given it the full five stars!

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


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