Liz Nugent is one of those rare authors willing to take true risks with her writing. In terms of structure, themes, and character depth, Nugent defiantly refuses to adhere to long-held crime fiction conventions. Her debut novel, Unraveling Oliver, made an instant splash with its UK release and proceeded to experience a slow boil as other locations discovered the book’s unparalleled uniqueness. By the time her new book appeared, it was clear that many fans the world over would be rushing to get their hands on Lying in Wait. They will not be disappointed.
Lying in Wait begins with Lydia Fitzsimons conspiring with her husband on a secret meeting that ends in the death of a young woman named Annie Doyle. By the end of the first chapter, Annie is buried in the garden behind the family estate.
The rest of the novel covers 36 years in the convoluted journey of this Irish family. Readers are given three points of view: Lydia, Laurence (Lydia’s son), and Karen (Annie’s sister). There are a number of other characters who play key roles in the development of this novel’s plot, but the reader’s only access to them is through the lens of the three leads. As the police, relatives, and their own guilt begin to close in on the Fitzsimons, this insular family must make some very difficult choices or risk having their secrets exposed.
Plot-wise, Lying in Wait is so elegantly structured that really to say much more would risk spoilers. The narratives of each of the main characters reflect upon the others in beautifully enlightening ways, weaving through each other’s testaments, exposing the speaker to the reader in subtle, by significant ways, and yet obscuring the most pertinent details until that precise moment when maximum impact can be achieved.
It is probably Laurence who elicits the most sympathetic response from readers. His choices are the ones that readers will most easily identify with – albeit, knowing that he is making mistakes along his journey. Watching him gain confidence and self-worth as he overcomes unhealthy eating habits and his obesity make him relatable in all his flawed glory. As the “outsider,” Karen’s viewpoint allows readers a glimpse into the family dynamic that those intimately involved are unable to see. All that said, Lydia is likely the character readers will remember the most by the dramatic conclusion of this novel. To put it mildly, she is a piece of work.
Suffice to say, all three points of view are needed to work this word magic. One loose thread in any of their tales and this house of cards would crumble. Liz Nugent’s talent is such that she makes this look so easy, when in fact later rumination reveals many deliberate choices that enhanced the overall enjoyment of Lying in Wait.
This is a very Irish tale, almost fairy tale in nature, assuming that one likes their fairies warped and their tales dark. Some readers may be put off by the overwhelming unhappiness on display throughout the novel, but Liz Nugent knows what she is doing. Even the main setting – the family estate known as Avalon – comes alive and vacillates between feeling like “home sweet home” and a menacing entity in which every crevice holds a secret.
All of this is in service to the winning plot. Lying in Wait is one of those books where plot and character merge so successfully that it would be impossible to imagine one without the other. Prepare to dig in, you never know what you will find buried within.
Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.