My version of Little Liar by Lisa Ballantyne is not actually out until February 2019, but as I’ve had a copy sitting in my e-reader for a while I decided to go ahead and read it. And I’m certainly glad I did.
I was going to hold off on the review as one’s not supposed to review books too far in advance, however…. then I noticed the book’s just been released in Australia, so here we go….
by Lisa Ballantyne
Published by Piatkus
on August 2nd 2018
Genres: Psychological Thriller
ISBN: 9780349419916, 9780349419923
While Nick Dean is enjoying an evening at home with his family, he is blissfully unaware that one of his pupils has just placed an allegation of abuse against him - and that Nick's imminent arrest will see the start of everything he knows and loves disintegrating around him.
Because, mud sticks, right? No matter if you're innocent or guilty?
When Angela Furness decides that enough is enough - she hates her parents, hates her friends and, most of all, despises what has recently happened at school - she does the only thing she knows will get her attention: calls the police. But Angela is unaware that the shocking story she is about to tell will see her life begin to topple.
Because, once you've said what you've said, there's no way back, right? No matter if you're innocent or guilty?
One of the things I liked about this book is that it’s short (my e-version was under 300 pages). I know that sounds bad, but it’s actually a good thing. I’ve read a few epic thrillers / mysteries / novels of suspense recently and it’s hard to remain seated on the edge of one’s seat (or in the bathtub in my case) for 450-600 pages. Plus it’s sometimes a huge commitment if you’re like me and in the midst of a nightmarish month or so of one’s day job.
I wasn’t planning it, but read this in a comfortable (bathtub) sitting (time-wise I mean!). I’d kinda guessed the twist (the whodunnit element) as options are limited – so a few more red herrings would have been handy, but the characters we’re offered and their realism sucked me into this narrative.
Ballantyne alternates her storytellers (in third person), so the plot unfolds from the point of view of Angela, her mother Donna and father Stephen, Nick, Nick’s wife and Nick’s mother.
Twelve / thirteen year old Angela is unfortunately quite unlikeable. I know I should have felt more sympathy as we’re quickly informed she was a good kid and excellent student until she started acting out. And when we’re in her head we know she feels some guilt and remorse for her actions and violent outbursts, though possibly not as much as she should.
It’s a horrible thing to admit… but Nick is far more amiable and whether it was solely my distrust of Angela or it’s implied through the backcover blurb or plot itself I initially found myself very much doubting the young girl’s allegations.
But there’s obviously something going on.
I related far more to her mother than I did to her, which of course could have been an age thing, but nonetheless I felt bad I didn’t have as much sympathy for Angela (our victim) as I should have. I also really liked Betty – Nick’s mother. Ballantyne’s portrayal of maternal love from the points of view of Donna and Betty – in particular – are in contrasts in some ways, but not in others. I found it interesting to ponder, for example, Betty’s unflinching faith in her son.
Which also brings me to the other very interesting element of this book, which is obviously the reaction of those around the key players.
I’ve labelled this a ‘psychological thriller’ though it could be construed as a ‘he said, she said’ but it’s the fallout of the allegations that will keep readers wanting more. I’ve talked about Angela and her trustworthiness, but Nick’s marriage is tested… and not just because of Angela’s actions but because of Nick’s own.
It’s a reminder that real life is messy and often requires understanding, forgiveness and honesty.
** This book features child abuse and child sexual abuse allegations, as a warning for whom the topic could be stressful. **
Little Liar by Lisa Ballantyne will be published in February 2019 by Little, Brown Book Group UK (Piatkus).
I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.