Sabine Durrant’s Under Your Skin is one of the twistiest* books I’ve read. I later read Gone Girl (a few years after it was published) and compared to Under Your Skin, the famous thriller felt almost predictable.
I didn’t enjoy Durrant’s second psychological thriller, Remember Me This Way quite as much, but it still offered up a twist or ten. So I literally leapt at the chance to read the former editor and feature writer’s latest novel, Lie With Me.Lie With Me
by Sabine Durrant
Published by Mulholland Books
on July 26th 2016
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Psychological Thriller
ISBN: 1473608337, 9781473608344
It starts with a lie. The kind we've all told - to a former acquaintance we can't quite place but still, for some reason, feel the need to impress. The story of our life, embellished for the benefit of the happily married lawyer with the kids and the lovely home.
And the next thing you know, you're having dinner at their house, and accepting an invitation to join them on holiday - swept up in their perfect life, the kind you always dreamed of...
Which turns out to be less than perfect. But by the time you're trapped and sweating in the relentless Greek sun, burning to escape the tension all around you - by the time you start to realise that, however painful the truth might be, it's the lies that cause the real damage...
... well, by then, it could just be too late.
A bit more blurb
What you need to know is that you probably won’t like the lead character, Paul Morris. Twenty years ago he wrote a novel which received some critical acclaim and he’s been attempting to cash-in on that success ever since.
In his early 40s, Paul’s been crashing at a friend’s place for five or six years. It’s an impressive place and he tends to imply it’s his own. He’s about to become homeless however, and Paul cannot – for the life of him – think of anyone he can squeeze a room out of. So he’s moved to his childhood home.
It’s around this time Paul runs into a University friend, Andrew. Andrew’s done well for himself and is now married with a family. They last saw each other in Greece in a bar a decade ago. Having lost his drinking buddies Paul remembers little of the incident but was behaving badly, so Andrew poured him into a taxi and sent him home.
Upwardly mobile (is that still a word?!) Andrew introduces Paul to Alice, a widowed human rights lawyer and mother of three teens. They apparently met in Greece but Paul doesn’t remember. Alice remembers his antics but is polite nonetheless. It’s then Paul discovers Alice may have a bedroom available when her daughter goes to University.
Yep… that’s the kind of guy Paul is. And he’s honest about it. At least with himself. And us. But it’s hard to like a guy who ingratiates himself with a woman in the hope he can soon sponge off her. Of course, to advance his cause, he exaggerates his success and lies about his current situation.
Once Alice is seemingly smitten, Paul’s able to wangle an invitation with her family and Andrew and his family to Greece. It’s a last hurrah of sorts as Alice’s holiday house there is about to be demolished.
Things get interesting once the group arrives in Pyros for holidays. It’s also a bittersweet time as Alice is still working with the parents of a girl who disappeared 10 years earlier, who are also returning for a reinvigorated campaign into her whereabouts. Understandably the police are wary of Alice’s efforts, but when another young woman is raped, their attention is turns to our holidaymakers.
I struggled initially with this novel, but really only because of Paul. He’s so unlikeable he’s hard to stomach. Sadly as deplorable as I found him… he eventually grew on me. Once we get past the crap it’s actually hard not to pity the guy. A little.
We spend a lot of time however, waiting for Paul to come a cropper. Which is inevitable. With a bit more élan he’d be a skilled con artist. But really he’s just desperate and wants people to think well of him. Interestingly he has other friends who seem to accept the person he is, so I pondered how distasteful his affectations really were.
It’s hard not to like Alice and feel sympathy for her in the role of mouse to Paul’s cat. Other than Paul’s reassurance that he’s incredibly attractive to the opposite sex (albeit mostly those 20yrs his junior) I did wonder what Alice saw in him. And as for Andrew, I couldn’t quite work him out. Although Paul gets along with Andrew’s wife he knows his old friend is wary of Paul’s intentions towards Alice. Paul broke Andrew’s sister’s heart at college, after all.
After some great character development, Durrant takes this story to a place most unexpected. In fact, even I – solver of the greatest of whodunnits (!?!) – was gobsmacked. I did not see it coming. I mean… we know something’s coming, but as for the what, well…
I must admit I’m marking this down just a tad for the slow start – though I realise that was part of Durrant building our impressions (such as they were) of Paul. Otherwise this would have been a rare 4.5 star read for me.
Lie With Me by Sabine Durrant will be released in Australia by Hachette on 26 July 2016.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.
* Technical book reviewing term!
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