SOMEONE IS LYING by Jenny Blackhurst
Jenny Blackhurst is an author of psychological crime thrillers. She has written a number of bestsellers, including How I lost you, Before I Let You In and The Foster Child.
The paperback of her latest novel, Someone is Lying is out on 14th November 2019, published by Headline.
In her latest whodunnit Jenny Blackhurst gives us Desperate Housewives noir, with secrets and twists aplenty to keep the pages turning.
It’s been a year since pillar of the community-cum-malicious mischief-maker and poison diary-keeper Erica Spencer died in a tragic accident at a neighbour’s Halloween party, and it seems that not quite everyone within the exclusive gated community where she lived is ready to put her death behind them.
Was it really an accident that killed Erica?
Someone clearly thinks not. Someone thinks it was murder.
And when an anonymous weekly podcast names six suspects, all from within that same, self-satisfied community, things begin to fall apart at the seams for each of them in different ways. Disappearances, death and double-dealing are on everyone’s mind. And someone is lying.
The reader is spoiled for choice in the cast of characters on this Cluedo board of an estate.
Is it Erica’s husband, Jack, who has been left to raise their two children alone and is considered a local hero for doing so?
Or could it be her best friend Mary Beth, a well-meaning, worthy replacement for Erica in the school mum hierarchy?
Perhaps it is Mary Beth’s husband Peter, who may have reasons of his own for wanting to live in Severn Oaks.
Or how about young single mum to twins, and business woman Felicity?
Glamorous Karla, wife of best-selling author Marcus, a wellbeing guru and millionaire certainly seem to have plenty to hide.
And Miranda, chair of the PTA has an insecure streak a mile wide, especially as Alex, her untrustworthy husband, spends a little too much time away from home?
All are struggling to keep their private lives firmly behind the solid oak doors of their expensive homes on the fancy estate in the fictional Severn Oaks in affluent Cheshire. Many of them have children at the local school. Some are friends, others perhaps more than that.
None of them is particularly sympathetic, at least to begin with. Blackhurst knows her types: the gossiping, guilt-stricken, envious, competitive or just plain exhausted school mums found outside every school gate and their charming but slightly suspect husbands. The dialogue is recognisable to any of us who have spent any time in such company, with some laugh-out-loud moments.
At the outset it is little difficult to tell the difference between the female characters, but as things get going they become gradually more distinct and colourful, certainly more so than the men they live with who remain a little sketchy, though it matters not for the purposes of the mystery that we are being invited to solve. Each character has their flaws, each their secrets and each their reasons for not being entirely truthful with their friends and family. We think we know these people. They think they know each other. But we-and they- could not be more wrong.
The beauty of the plot unfolding in the way it does is that the stereotypes we think we are dealing with become gradually humanised by the revealing of their secrets and as we discover their Achilles’ heels we are drawn into the mystery that links them as our expectations are confounded.
Blackhurst uses the neat mechanism of a weekly podcast to reveal the secrets and motives that might have led one of the number to want Erica Spencer dead. This works on a number of levels, not least that it makes for compelling, Agatha-Christie-like set pieces where the characters get together in one place to listen to what is being revealed by the mystery voice. Each character’s reactions and the interactions between them after each broadcast reveals more about each of them in a pleasing drip-feed. Paranoia and suspicion abound with a large, gratifying dose of bitchiness spicing up the brew.
As the final act begins we are given flashbacks by a number of the characters to the scene of the original drama. And what better setting than a neighbourly Halloween party where costumes are worn, alcohol flows freely, past ghosts materialise and foul-smelling truths begin to seep out through the cracks in the veneer of those oh-so-perfect lives. The masks must fall, but will redemption follow?
A well-plotted tale of human weakness where hypocrisy, lies, dissemination, jealousy and revenge live side-by-side with love and friendship, this engaging read romps along pulling us with it, breathless, to the bitter end.
Review by Alison Heyworth
Jenny tweets from @jennyBlackhurst
Click here to read our interview with Jenny and her top ten favourite true crime podcasts.