I’d had Lie by the Pool by Susan Walter awaiting me on my iPad for a while before getting to it. I’m not sure why I requested it, but something about it leapt out and I’ve seen other Aussie bookbloggers or bookstagrammers reading it too. In some ways it’s a proverbial sleeper. We come into the story part-way through. Bree has lost everything – her husband and house – and is living out of her car. When we meet her she’s sneaking into the poolhouse of a large house in Beverley Hills. It’s obvious that it’s familiar to her for some reason but that’s all we know. And that’s all we do know until Walter very cleverly starts pulling together multiple threads.
Lie by the Pool
by Susan Walter
Published by Lake Union Publishing
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
Bree’s new home is luxurious and private, with a fancy Beverly Hills address. What a shame it’s not hers. Widowed, penniless, living in her car, and out of options, she’s climbed the fence and crashed in the pool house. All she wants is a good night’s sleep. But when Sophie, the absentee owner, finds her, she gets a whole lot more.
Sophie invites Bree back for a party. When it winds down, Bree can’t resist sneaking upstairs to sleep in a real bed. But the next morning, she wakes to find Sophie’s dead body floating in the pool. As the resident vagabond, she’s both the only witness and the prime murder suspect.
Bree knows she shouldn’t run, but her husband’s death was mysterious, too. If she’s going to clear her name, she’s going to have to work fast. Because the killer is still out there, and she’s next.
There are a few narrators here. Bree of course. And then there’s Carter – the son of a builder who flips houses and who discovers his father has bought the Beverley Hills house. He’s furious he wasn’t told and doesn’t understand why there’s some secrecy surrounding it. Sophie, his sister – seems to be biding time waiting for her dream job, much to the frustration of her family. But when it’s her turn as narrator she tells us she knows the secrets behind the house and whose belongings remain there.
Bree’s a bit of an enigma and Walter purposely keeps her that way. She’s retained two or three of her previous music students, so has some income – though maintaining her personal hygiene without access to showers is problematic and she barely eats. She’s found quiet streets to sleep in her car at night but the temptation of the vacant poolhouse in Beverley Hills is too much and she returns. This time she’s discovered by Sophie, who’s there with Carter to scope the unoccupied house out for a party. Bree is surprised when Sophie leaves a care parcel and then invites her to the party, but attends nonetheless. And that’s where things get kinda complicated. As the blurb indicates, there’s a murder and Bree realises as an itinerant with no reason to be at the house, she’s the obvious suspect.
Walter dips about in time here and it’s cleverly done so we’re not quite sure of our timelines though we’re eventually taken back in time to Bree falling in love with Luke and the early years of their marriage. Not only does Walter manage to keep the threads just far enough apart that we can’t quite see what’s coming but she also manages to dangle hints in front of us. Just out of our reach.
There are connections that shouldn’t be there and we don’t know how they fit together. And while obviously there are secrets being kept, we don’t know why. Finally, we’re not entirely sure if those secrets involve good people doing stupid things, or bad people doing whatever the hell they want.
This is very nearly a (rare) 4.5 star read for me with the crafting of its structure the standout. The climax itself was probably a little clunky and I suspect that’s because we didn’t really ultimately end up with an identifiable threat (or baddie, to use technical terms!).
That said, I’ll definitely be seeking out more of Walter’s work as she’s written a couple of previous novels and – from their titles (Good as Dead and Over Her Dead Body!) – they sound similarly twisty and dark.
Lie by the Pool by Susan Walter was published by Lake Union Publishing and is now available.
I received an electronic copy from the publisher for review purposes.