LYING IN WAIT by Liz Nugent
Gallery/Scout Press; 6/12/18
CBTB Rating: 5/5
The Verdict: a masterful, utterly addictive crime novel
What an absolute talent Liz Nugent is. The Irish crime writer made a splash with her debut UNRAVELING OLIVER, and this June, her sophomore effort releases in the US. LYING IN WAIT is every bit a propulsive, compulsively-readable psychological suspense novel. With the sharp intelligence and insight of UNRAVELING OLIVER and a quiet, driving tension all its own, LYING IN WAIT is sure to please established Nugent fans and newcomers to her work alike. You would be hard pressed to find another psychological suspense author who writes with the same unfussy dexterity as Nugent—her clean, to-the-point prose and candid observations of human nature come together here to deliver a truly outstanding summer read. Sparse, blunt, and wholly engrossing, LYING IN WAIT shocks and captivates not with blood and gore, but with the tragic capacity for desperate, ordinary people to do terrible, far-from-ordinary things. A summer 2018 must-read.
From the international bestselling author of Unraveling Oliver, an “unputdownable psychological thriller with an ending that lingers long after turning the final page” (The Irish Times) about a Dublin family whose dark secrets and twisted relationships are suddenly revealed.
My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.
On the surface, Lydia Fitzsimons has the perfect life—wife of a respected, successful judge, mother to a beloved son, mistress of a beautiful house in Dublin. That beautiful house, however, holds a secret. And when Lydia’s son, Laurence, discovers its secret, wheels are set in motion that lead to an increasingly claustrophobic and devastatingly dark climax.
When a book is this good, it’s hard to know where to begin—so I’ll start at the very beginning. I absolutely loved Nugent’s debut, UNRAVELING OLIVER, but I also can understand why this book didn’t deliver quite what some readers were expecting. Unlike many of the psychological thrillers it was compared to in 2017, UNRAVELING OLIVER is not (and, I’d venture to guess, was never intended to be) a twisty-turny, shocking story of psychological suspense - and that’s not a negative at all. What UNRAVELING OLIVER is is a razor-sharp and deeply unsettling character study of an abusive husband. What made him this way? How did he go from an isolated young child to a manipulative and downright frightening man? Nugent’s skill at unpacking the psychology behind her story’s title character made UNRAVELING OLIVER so exceptional—but it also made the focus of UNRAVELING OLIVER very different from its peer summer thrillers. If you’re one of those readers who found UNRAVELING OLIVER to be not quite what you were expecting, I’d encourage you to give LYING IN WAIT a second glance. (And if you, like me, loved UNRAVELING OLIVER, you will love LYING IN WAIT, too.) In her sophomore effort, Nugent brilliantly combines the keen insight and emotional intelligence of UNRAVELING OLIVER with an accessible, engaging plot structure replete with a good plot twist or two—in short, it’s the total package.
Beyond its brisk pacing, short chapters, and gorgeous packaging, what gives LYING IN WAIT an edge over so many of 2018's spring and summer psychological suspense novels comes down to the razor-sharp insights of its author. This isn’t a novel of high-stakes thrills or horrifying serial killers, but it’s just as gripping—and how the author manages to pull that off can be traced directly back to how much her assessment of human nature rings true. Nugent has a knack for delving into the dark corners of humanity and pulling out the nasty little threads that live in all of us. Insecurity, greed, possessiveness - traits that we’ve probably all exhibited at one point or another (no matter how much we wish we hadn’t) are brought into the light to devastating end in LYING IN WAIT. Here, Nugent explores tragedies and injustices wrought by people just being people: pursuing self-interest, protecting themselves and their loved ones, and taking the path of least resistance to get what they feel they deserve. There’s so much to be said for an author who can make a story with a premise this simple so utterly compelling.
Speaking of exploring the dark corners of humanity, it will come as no surprise to readers, then, that Nugent also has a knack for writing characters who are totally unlikable in the best possible way. This isn’t a book that will deliver your new favorite crime fiction hero or heroine, but it certainly is a book that will deliver a masterclass in writing complex, thoroughly-developed anti-heroines. At the center of LYING IN WAIT is Lydia Fitzsimons, a woman who seems to have it all: a gorgeous mansion in Dublin, a husband with a widely-respected career as a judge, and a son to whom she is totally devoted. What could go wrong? When Lydia’s husband kills a young woman, she finds herself thrown into a maelstrom of secrets and deception. But Lydia is no ordinary “wife in distress” figure. No, Nugent gives Lydia the depth of character that any titular “wife” in any current domestic thriller should have. She’s no victim, and she’s not about to let her family’s world be upended—nor will she let her son get close to uncovering the secrets hidden within the confines of their picturesque home. As the secrets and lies surrounding the story’s central crime build, readers observe the subtle yet unmissable deterioration of our story’s main character. It’s quiet and measured, but it’s there—and it builds to a shocking and jaw-dropping conclusion. The layers and contradictions of Lydia’s character are central to the tension and dark claustrophobia of LYING IN WAIT, and readers will love and hate this mother figure in equal measure.
I would be remiss not to mention what might just be my most favorite element of Nugent’s writing of all: her ability to take in and examine the “life cycle” of a crime through her work. Nugent’s writing doesn’t start with a crime and end with the solution to the case—it takes in all the factors and fallouts surrounding it. She examines the precipitating factors that spurred her characters to action; she explores the event of the crime itself; she traces the fallout from that crime as it moves from victim and perpetrator to family members and friends and beyond. It’s an incredible skill, and it’s one she does effortlessly. I would also be remiss not to remind you that Nugent does all of this - the sharp character studies, the page-turning plotting, the big-picture exploration of a crime - in 320 pages. What an absolute talent, indeed.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions my own.
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press (June 12, 2018)
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