Dead Lovely by Helen Fitzgerald

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Dead Lovely by Helen Fitzgerald

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Category: Crime
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Lesley Mason
Reviewed by Lesley Mason
Summary: Sarah has been protective of Krissie since they were in infants school, but the friendship that has survived the divergence of their life-styles is strained by Sarah's failure to conceive and Krissie's unplanned baby. Worse is to come on a hiking holiday, when inappropriate lust sparks off murderous outcomes. Compulsive crime, told with wicked wit.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: June 2008
Publisher: Faber and Faber
ISBN: 978-0571236497

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Krissie tells us that she 'found herself' by accident, a piece at a time. The first bit in a tent, doing things with her best friend's husband that one really shouldn't be doing, especially as said best friend is asleep right next to him. The second bit dragging her friend's body across the rocks at the bottom of a cliff.

And the rest in the darkness of my parents' attic.

So much for the first page then! We know we're in for something of a rocky ride.

Krissie and Sarah have been friends since they were four years old. The kind of friends who mean everything to each other, despite their very different lifestyles.

Sarah has always been the girly one: the one to play with dolls, who grew up, fell in love and married a doctor, bought the perfect house and the cottage in the country and settled down to make babies. Only the baby bit hasn't quite worked out yet.

Krissie was the carefree outdoors one, who went hitchhiking to Goa, studied sociology, became a child-protection social worker – judgemental of her clients even while she was running around drinking too much, having casual sex and a generally good time. Having a baby of her own was not really part of the plan. Certainly not one that resulted from a sleazy encounter in the toilets of a Tenerife club.

The strains in the friendship begin to tell. Sarah's becoming ever more controlling and her marriage is shaking on its foundations. Krissie gets through the pregnancy but then lapses into post natal depression.

Why in the circumstances anyone would think that a walking holiday: Krissie and Sarah and Sarah's husband Kyle (an old friend of Krissie's from university) might be the solution to their problems is anybody's guess. It is just one of the many inexplicabilities of the characters that, bizarre as they are, turn out to be entirely consistent. Either way it provides the ideal triangular set up in which the inevitable happens, and the lives explode through adultery, into murder, kidnapping and revenge.

Meanwhile…in a village nearby Mike Tetherton is between jobs, working intermittently on a playground for the local children whilst trying to decide the precise aspect for the house he's going to build in that plot of land in the middle of nowhere.

Then there's Chas – the third housemate from Krissie & Kyle's university days – serving an eight-year stretch for assault, which he neither denies nor regrets, but won't explain.

The story skips intermittently from being told by Krissie from her own particular viewpoint, to the occasional unseen narrator who fills in the developments that she would not have known, or simply gives an outside perspective on character and events. Both speak with the same sharp sparkling wit.

Fitzgerald's observation of the tiny details of life is spot on – I speak as one who knows what it's like to find yourself half-way down the corridor with no idea why… so you go back to your desk. Usually I'd just forgotten I needed to pee.

The pace is fast enough to keep the pages turning, but broken with retrospectives to slow you down and allow the tension to build. Despite giving the game away on page one, it is only towards the very end that the probable becomes predictable from the reader's point of view. By then you'll be ensnared enough not to care. You will be rooting for the good guys to win, whilst quite possibly wondering if there really are any.

The setting is sparse. Sufficient detail to place Glasgow and Loch Lomond in their rightful locales, but not enough to get in the way of the action. Where it has no bearing, geography is rightly ignored.

High-brow it isn't, but a gripping read that you really won't want to interrupt.

There are no extra points for getting it so right with your first novel – but if Fitzgerald can sustain the quality into the next one, she should have a very bright future ahead.

Taking a chick-lit style and producing a genuine thriller cannot be the easiest of mixed-genre ideas, but in Dead Lovely, she has it cracked.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this is the type of book you enjoy then you might also appreciate Lullaby by Claire Seeber.

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Buy Dead Lovely by Helen Fitzgerald at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dead Lovely by Helen Fitzgerald at


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