|Your Beautiful Lies by Louise Douglas|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: Murder, intrigue and a policeman's wife straddling the two sides of the 1980s miners' strike makes a satisfying psychological thriller. Add the re-emergence of a 'what if' past and a crumbling present and it gets even better.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 464||Date: August 2014|
|Publisher: Black Swan|
|External links: Author's website|
South Yorkshire 1984: Annie Howarth comes from a mining family and is married to William, a police superintendent. Although she and their daughter have all the societal and financial status they could need, Annie's life is becoming very uncomfortable as the miners begin a strike that will become violent on both sides of the divide. It's either an illegal strike or assertion of rights depending on the side you're on but unfortunately Annie isn't permitted to choose. However this is only the start of her problems. Tom Greenwood, a former boyfriend, is back on the streets after serving a prison sentence for manslaughter and he has unfinished business. The problem for Annie is that the unfinished business is with her, eventually threatening her world and possibly even her life., British author and master-melder of psychological tension and complex relationships is back and at it again. Yes, another novel to make us balance on the edge of our seats as tension builds. This time, Louise's ability to take the expected and twist it into shocks and surprises begins with the subject matter.
Anyone who's of an age to have lived through the 1980s or has a passing acquaintance with Stephen Baldry's movie or musical Billy Elliot will be smiling smugly with an assumed foreknowledge of what’s ahead. Indeed, Louise even takes us to some of the places we expect to go – the struggles on the picket lines, the agonising decision about whether to scab or remain in brotherly solidarity etc. However the introduction of Tom Greenwood (Annie's former 'what-if' romance cut brutally short) adds an expertly handled frisson.
Annie lives in a world of rarefied domesticity where her intelligence is funnelled into home, hearth and child-rearing all day every day. If this is the life one chooses than it can be extremely rewarding but Annie has no choice and feels stifled. To make matters worse the nature of his work means that William isn't the most understanding husband. His love for her and desire to keep his family safe sometimes translate less than sympathetically. Annie may look to her mother for help but even this has less than satisfying results. Meanwhile a killer lurks.
Oh indeed, as in her previous novels, Louise demonstrates her ability to rustle up atmosphere. Annie's struggle for recognition at home echoes (less violently) the men's struggle for recognition at the pit. Meanwhile the Yorkshire moors of Wuthering Heights provide a fitting bleakness to the accompanying murder mystery as life goes from bad to dangerously worse. Speaking of the murder mystery, you may eventually think you know which way this is going too but just wait for the revelation.
An inherent fairness also pervades the story allowing us to plump for nearly all the characters. It's easy to sympathise with Annie (although I did want to shake her at times) and yet we can just as easily sympathise with 'perfect policeman' William. We may not agree with his actions but we can see the duress that causes them. When's all said and done both are suffering from the same problem – an inability to communicate which has dire results.
This sense of literary fairness even extends to the strike which is used deftly as a device to fray characters' judgement. Whether socialist or a Thatcherite, we can't complain about the way that Louise portrays such a divisive subject, ensuring that all sides are given a chance to explain.
This may be a bit of a slow burner, however once fully alight it becomes full-on fiery excitement, turning into an excellent read. This is definitely one of those books which make you want to pull up the drawbridge and submerge into it and, as autumn approaches, this is just the time of year to do it.
(Thank you, Black Swan, for providing us with a copy for review.)
You can read more book reviews or buy Your Beautiful Lies by Louise Douglas at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Your Beautiful Lies by Louise Douglas at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.