My rating: 5 of 5 stars
One of the best books I’ve read this year.
“My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it”
From that very first line I was hooked. It’s one of those books that will keep you reading late into the night and at every other opportunity (including sneakily under the desk at work).
Main character Lydia is deliciously horrid, unlikeable in almost every way, but it makes for compulsive reading as you keep turning the pages waiting to see what she’ll say or do next.
The story begins in 1980, with that fantastic line, as Lydia and husband Andrew kill young woman Annie Doyle. Andrew is a respected judge and Lydia is determined to protect the family at all costs so they decide to cover it up by burying Annie in their back garden. Lydia does everything she can to make sure it all stays a secret but Andrew struggles to live with the guilt of his actions and starts falling apart. Teenage son, Laurence, quickly realizes something is going on despite his mothers attempts to distract him and becomes increasingly obsessed with the Doyle family. As he investigates, getting closer to the Doyle family, it may be the undoing of his own.
Given the opening pages this isn’t exactly a mystery or a who dunnit. It’s much more a character study about the impact this crime has on Lydia, Andrew and Laurence as well as on the victims family and especially her sister Karen. It covers the events and the investigation that follows but this is interspersed with flashbacks to the characters history and the events leading up to the murder.
The story is told in alternating chapters from the point of view of three of the characters, Lydia, Laurence and Karen. There seems to be a current trend for unlikeable or unreliable narrators in books and that was definitely the case for me in this story as I didn’t particularly like any of the three. I have to admit I haven’t been a fan of the unlikeable character trend but this book is the exception. While I didn’t take to any of the three, they were so real and so flawed they made for an engaging read.
Karen, Annie’s sister was probably the weakest of the three and for me her chapters were probably the most frustrating. She refuses to give up on finding her sister alive and continues to investigate when the police give up. She’s intelligent and beautiful and has plenty of opportunities to make something of her life but always thinks she’s not good enough and lets others hold her back. In her investigation she misses some very obvious clues which made me want to shake her.
Laurence, I couldn’t quite make my mind up about. I think mostly I felt a bit sorry for him. He begins the books as a shy, overweight and bullied teenager with no friends. He’s completely dominated by his mother who keeps plying him with food and trying to keep him as close to her as possible.
Laurence and I are bonded. I gave birth to him and therefore he is mine
As he begins his own investigation and gains a bit of independence he becomes more likeable although some of his actions are a little bit dubious.
The highlight of the story for me however was Lydia. She’s just so completely horrible that she’s wonderful to read. She’s a total snob who thinks she’s far superior to everyone else. Nothing is more important to her than her family and her home and she’ll go to any lengths to protect them. She’s a formidable woman who enforces her will on everyone around her. As the story progresses and I learned more about her past I became increasingly horrified but could also kind of understand her actions. At no point is she ever likeable but it’s fascinating to read as you never know what she’ll say or do next.
The supporting characters are also incredibly well written, from sleazy police detective O’Toole to Andrew who’s torn apart by guilt and even Annie herself. They all feel like real people, warts and all.
The pacing is absolutely spot on and the author times the reveals just perfectly throughout the book to bring it all to a shocking and fantastic conclusion.
I absolutely loved the whole thing and would recommend everyone read this. I’m going to be looking out for more books by this author
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC.