One late night in early November Andrew Fitzsimons meets with Annie Doyle. That meeting does not go well and Annie Doyle dies. Andrew, a judge, and his wife Lydia cover up Annie's death. Andrew begins to fall apart whilst Lydia maintains that life has to go on, for the sake of their son, Laurence. And she is determined to keep the family together, whatever the cost...
Lying in Wait starts with one of the best opening lines in a novel I have read in recent years. It provides a clue as to the character of Lydia and sets the tone for the rest of the story. The story is narrated by Lydia, her son Laurence and Karen, who is the sister of Annie Doyle and is looking into her disappearance. This is a fantastic way of telling the story as the reader sees the story progress from different viewpoints, allowing the plot to build layer upon layer.
Liz Nugent is skilled at creating compelling characters. Lydia is quite hideous. She is narcissistic, selfish, manipulative and conniving, a sociopath that is quite chilling to read. She is the catalyst for all of the events that occur in the book, from causing Andrew, her husband, to be in the position he is in with Annie Doyle, to the controlling way she clings onto her son, Laurence. Everything she does is for her own ends, from controlling what Laurence eats, to leading her husband to murder. The clue to her character is in the opening line and sets the tone for the rest of the story. There are points in the novel when the reader knows that Lydia is up to something, things that are obvious to the reader but to which the other characters are oblivious. And that is the point. As readers we are privy to Lydia's sociopathic tendencies, we can have hints and clues to her real personality that those around her don't have. It is this that makes the book all the more compelling and chilling. Laurence is torn between wanting his independence, adjusting to his life as a young adult and unwittingly fighting being his mother's son. Karen's life is shaped by the disappearance of Annie, and by Annie's life choices before her death, and this has a lasting effect on how her life plays out.
There is an underlying malice that runs throughout the book, the reader is left wondering how things will turn out, and how Lydia will manipulate things to get her own way. It draws you along, the short chapters urging you to read 'just one more' and it soon hooks you in.
A quick note about the cover, something I rarely do. The cover does a great job at invoking the sense of tension and unease that litters the novel. Someone said to me the house on the front cover looked creepy. I responded that it was the people inside you had to worry about...
This is not a traditional crime novel. We know from the outset that someone has died, and who the perpetrator is. This novel is about the fall out from the murderous deed, the motivation behind it and what drives people to kill. It is a study of the human psyche and a true psychological thriller.
In her debut novel, Unravelling Oliver, Liz Nugent showed she is adept at writing stories with characters that are on the edge of social acceptance, who bend reality and laws to their own will. In Lying in Wait she firmly cements herself as a skilled storyteller, who's monstrous creations are all the more effective for their outwardly normal facades. They are hidden in plain sight, could be anyone and this makes it all the more effective. I look forward to reading more from Liz Nugent in the future.