Fans of Nicci French will be familiar with the gripping and finely detailed writing style of the husband and wife team of Nikki Gerrard and Sean French. Their latest novel, The Lying Room is a stand alone psychological thriller that draws you into the narrative very quickly and doesn’t let you go until the last pages.
Neve Connelly is a wife and Mum who has very recently embarked on a completely out of character, whirlwind affair. Wracked with guilt, she knows she is playing with fire, but is addicted to her lover, and boss, Saul. After enjoying an evening of illicit passion with Saul she returns to her husband Fletcher and their emotionally defective marriage. Not expecting to see Saul for a few days as duty calls him away, she is surprised and excited to receive an unprecedented text message from him, asking her to meet him at his London flat as he has a few hours to spare. Neve hops on her bike, her favoured mode of transport, and heads over to their love nest. When she arrives, however, she is greeted with the horrific scene of a murdered Saul, his head caved in with a hammer, abandoned nearby.
From this point on, Neve makes a series of very fast, necessary, but not necessarily good decisions, that put into action a train of motion that gathers momentum and takes her with it. Neve finds herself playing a very dangerous game, and doing so while juggling her husband, her troubled daughter Mabel and her two younger sons; leaving her mentally and physically exhausted. Things aren’t helped by the appearance of some old friends following a reunion get-together, and the best friend who suddenly needs Neve to provide her with more emotional support than she can really handle. Throw in the secret lover’s wife to the mix and it’s perhaps no wonder that Neve is making some decisions that at best seem odd and ill-advised.
The appearance of DCI Hitching is an excellent introduction to the story as the friendly, yet deeply suspicious and omnipresent policeman – he knows something’s going on, and that Neve’s not telling him the whole truth, but can she keep one step ahead of him?
There is a lot of family angst in this novel, lots of cleaning and domestic duties, but for me that added to the feeling of minutia and normality of everyday life that Neve’s secrets are threatening to blow apart. Everything seems so normal, but under the surface, it’s all falling apart.
I started this book as I set off on a 3 hour plane journey and finished it at my destination later that day. It was a gripping novel, and although I debated some (ok, most) of Neve’s decisions, I liked her as a character, and liked the irony that for the first time in her life she’d gone out on a limb and done something she saw as being purely, selfishly, for herself, only to see it backfire so quickly and spectacularly. All in all, an enjoyable read.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher/author for a copy of this book in return for an honest review.