Pure Evil is Lying in Wait... for You
If you’re searching for a book that will frighten the living daylights out of you, look no further than Lying in Wait. Put aside the paranormal, for there's nowt so queer as folk.
Liz Nugent has written a story in plain words, about regular people, that will chill you to the bone.
Nugent’s debut was a runaway success. Unravelling Oliver was a number one bestseller, won the IBA award's Crime Novel of the Year in 2014, and was the fastest selling debut novel of that year. Just this week, Nugent signed a six-figure deal with US publishing house Simon & Schuster, whose roster includes Stephen King, paving the way for Hollywood adaptations.
The possibility that Nugent could top the pace and tension of her first book seemed almost too terrifying to contemplate, but that is precisely what she has achieved.
Lying in Wait, Nugent’s second offering to the domestic thriller genre, is set in 1980s Ireland. Drawing deeply on her experience as a TV writer, Nugent pays close attention to setting and props. Fans of Stranger Things will revel in the meticulous period detail. Oil shortages and IRA kidnappings dominate the news. Children are allowed to watch only The Waltons and payphones are operated with 5p coins and buttons A and B.
When a writer goes to the trouble of giving a house a name, you can bet that house is going to be more than just a bricks and mortar stage for the action. Think of Dickens’ Satis House, dream of du Maurier’s Manderley, now imagine a crumbling Georgian mansion in a leafy and affluent suburb of Dublin. In Arthurian legend, Avalon was an island inhabited by nine sisters and ruled by the mystical Morgan La Fey. Nugent’s Avalon, as befits the home of any gothic thriller, comes with an appropriate assortment of ghosts in the woodwork and skeletons in the shrubbery.
Lying in Wait is narrated, in turns, by three characters.
Lydia Fitzsimons takes control from the cracking opening line;
‘My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.’
Lydia, a pathological snob, has lived a life of self-containment within the walls of Avalon. In this limited but comfortable domain, Lydia has ruled absolute over her husband and son. In November 1980, Lydia’s husband buries Annie Doyle under a flowerbed outside the kitchen window. Lydia keeps her cool, extricates herself from culpability and executes the perfect cover-up.
Teenager Laurence Fitzsimons, Laurie to his mother, Lar to his girlfriend, has enjoyed Lydia’s undivided love and attention for 17 years. His relationship with his father is strained by jealousy in ‘a strange triangle.’ Laurence suspects his father of Annie Doyle’s murder but feels duty-bound to protect his mother from such a horrific revelation. He carries the burden of secrecy and guilt into adulthood when he determines to make amends to Annie’s family.
Karen Doyle is Annie’s younger, stronger and much more beautiful sister. Frustrated by police incompetence, Karen refuses to stop searching for her sister’s murderer and comes perilously close to uncovering the truth.
Each of these three relays their own angle on the story and there is no knowing who to believe until, piece by nail-biting piece, the bleak plot is laid bare.
A cast of credible, and refreshingly normal, supporting characters add depth to the plot and provide some much appreciated relief to the clenching tension. Karen’s parents are agonisingly ordinary in their grief and helplessness. Laurence’s posh granny Fitz and his uncouth girlfriend Helen are both delightful and heroic.
Nevertheless, it is Lydia who steals the show. Poised, well-groomed and immune to the ravages of time Lydia is somehow justified in her rampant narcissism. She is, in equal parts, fabulous and appalling. Plotting, controlling and even stooping to mix potions in the kitchen, Lydia Fitzsimons gives Great Expectations' Miss Havisham a run for her money. Avalon has a hold on Lydia. It is, at once, her refuge and her purgatory. She will never leave and can’t bear to be left there alone with her sins.
Lying in Wait is a tale of the extraordinary capabilities of the human mind and dark twists of the human soul. It is a study of the fragility of mental health and the contagion of madness.
Lying in Wait is the very opposite of brilliant. It is a black hole of a book. It will suck you in to a chasm of pure evil. It will spin you around hairpin twists until you are reeling, make you laugh like a crazed lunatic, make you gasp for air and light and then, if you survive, it will spit you out. Don't say you weren't warned.