I’ve been listening to some quite intense audiobooks recently (A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four being among them), so I decided to get a couple of light, modern reads that could help break up my venture into the world of Sherlock Holmes. One such book was Sabine Durrant’s Lie With Me, a contemporary thriller that really surprised me.
Title: Lie With Me.
Author: Sabine Durrant.
Publication: 2016, Mulholland Books.
Length: 9 hours / 293 pages.
Genre: Contemporary Thriller.
If there is one thing that I know for sure about this book, it is that it is not at all what I expected. From the blurb, I believed that it was going to be a story about manipulation, and perhaps even abduction, but it’s not. It’s a story about Paul Morris, a failed writer with a lot of secrets.
Paul is a distinctly unpleasant narrator; whether he is seeking money or sex, he is constantly searching for ways to exploit those around him. He is selfish, and he doesn’t seem to care very much for the people around him. His world is changed, however, when he is reunited with an old friend from university, Andrew Hopkins. He becomes involved in Andrew’s social circle and, soon, he is travelling to Pyros with his new friends.
Yet this holiday is certainly not a happy one. The friends are haunted by mystery, and by death. Young girls are being raped and murdered, and Paul can’t seem to make sense of any of it. Then, finally, Paul realises what has been happening, but by then it is far too late. I won’t say any more, because there is a lot of mystery in this book, and there is a wonderful delight in unravelling the mystery as you read. Let me just say that the outcome is not at all what I expected; this book kept me guessing until the very end.
*** THE NEXT SECTION OF THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SOME SPOILERS. IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR A SPOILER-FREE REVIEW, THEN I SUGGEST THAT YOU SKIP TO THE “MY CONCLUSION” SECTION OF THIS POST! ***
Going Deeper into the Novel…
In this section of my reviews, I like to choose a couple of themes from the book that I can discuss a little more thoroughly. This time, I would like to talk about Paul as a narrator, and about truth.
Paul the Narrator
From almost the very beginning of this book, I bore an intense dislike for Paul Morris. He is an extremely selfish man, especially when it comes to women. He undresses them with his eyes, constantly objectifying them. This makes for a very interesting style of narration, because, as readers, we are brought into the mind of such a despicable person. Yet Paul is a very three-dimensional character, and the more time that he spends with Alice, his girlfriend and Andrew’s friend, the more he seems to change. He begins to repent his actions and realise his mistakes, yet if there’s one thing that Paul comes to realise, it’s that you can’t change the past.
As Andrew tells Paul just before the police come knocking, “all truth is subjective”. For a long time, I believed that Paul harboured a dual personality. There is a moment in the book where he finds blood on his hands, covering his skin and clothes. Then, he finds a dead dog, and he can’t seem to remember where the blood came from. I assumed that there was a part of Paul that was psychopathic and that his waking-self blocked out these memories of violence so as to protect himself. This was a really interesting train of thought because it allowed me to consider the subjectivity of narration. It would be easy for Paul to commit terrible crimes, but then not report them to his readers.
At the same time, this book asks us to consider the morality in bending the truth. By the end of the novel, we learn just how much truth has been bent, for although Paul may not be guilty of all the crimes that he is accused of, he is guilty of other crimes. He pays the price for his sexism, and for the death of Andrew’s sister. He is constantly lying and, as I mentioned earlier, he really does present himself as a terrible human being. He thus pays the price for his own villainy.
I was honestly so surprised by this book and so, so impressed. Currently reading through the Sherlock Holmes stories and having read a few Agatha Christie novels in the past, I am usually pretty good at guessing where a story is going. This book really caught me out, though. I was absolutely certain of what the outcome was going to be, but I was wrong, and I absolutely loved it.
The book’s strongest points are probably Durrant’s descriptive style of writing, which is absolutely superb, and, of course, its mystery. Paul quickly became the protagonist that I unashamedly loved to hate. The other characters were somewhat two-dimensional in comparison to Paul, but this is not at all a criticism. In fact, it emphasises Paul’s selfishness, and how he simply doesn’t want to understand the people around him unless they can aid him in some way.
Lie With Me is a contemporary thriller/mystery that provides a fantastic insight into the human mind. It contains a few sexual scenes, which came as a bit of a surprise, but they were necessary to demonstrate Paul’s selfish character. It may also seem a little slow at times, although this is quickly redeemed by the overarching drama, as well as by Durrant’s impeccable descriptions. This is therefore a book that I simply have to recommend. If you’re looking for a really good mystery, then this is the book for you.
Thank you for reading! You can check out an A-Z list of all my reviews here.