Lying in Wait
by Liz Nugent
Deliciously demented. Cleverly cruel. Satisfying and sadistic.
These things may not make up the most ideal everyday scenario – but for me, they make the best types of thrillers. You know, those books that you simply have to devour in as little time as possible, because they are so difficult to put down.
I love to walk right on the edge of a dirty and taboo line when it comes to thriller or mystery novel. I revel in the things to be seen when you peek through a grimy window or just around the corner of a derelict house in the middle of the woods. I love the grit and the deceitfulness. A while many have the talent of weaving a mystery plot into a tapestry of mischief with original design, a true psychological thriller is not something that is created easily.
In all the books I’ve read, I’ve noticed one thing – not many authors are successful at diving deep into the depraved minds of sociopaths or serial killers, of delving into their twisted psyche and setting up shop there … at least not successfully. Maybe they find it a little too dangerous. Perhaps it leaves them a little too afraid of the shadows that threaten to linger around them as they travel through reality into the fiction of their written works. True psychological thrillers aren’t afraid to make twists and turns that are not only unexpected, but wrought from the chaos of intricate and unsavory plots … all while featuring characters that require an immense amount of critical thinking on the reader’s part to figure out. And even then – for a really well planned out novel – you still can’t predict exactly what they will do.
In Lying in Wait, Irish author Liz Nugent really knows how to do it … and do it up to perfection. What I mean is, the last few chapters left me shaking my head at her damn-near genius of an ending. The plot of this book kept me thinking about it for days after I read the final page. She made me marvel at how invested I was in the characters … and how even though they were a motley cast of cruel, devious, manipulative and pathetic, I actually cared where they ended up. The full body of work was crafted with a wily nature, little tidbits of information left behind for the reader much like bread crumbs leading to a sinister gingerbread house in the woods. The tone of Nugent’s storytelling is fluid and seductive, the alternating POV doing a perfect job of building up an impeccable tension that bursts like a foul boil in the end … one you are disgusted by, but also can’t turn away from. It’s a story of a murder, of a set of survivors, of the upper-class and their snobbery, and of the poor folk down the hill.
Lydia has always felt settled in her role as one-half of the golden couple known as The Fitzsimons. She’s the gorgeous wife of a beloved local judge, a doting mother to her only child and son Laurence, and keeps house in one of the most coveted properties in all of Dublin. The House at Avalon is historic really, set on an expanse of land so green and fruitful that it’s obvious wealth is almost obscene when compared to the rest of the town. It’s a place where Lydia is absolutely certain she’ll spend the rest of her days, a home that will be within her crafty grips until the very day that she passes from this world.
As luck would have it, Andrew had the audacity to die first. And truth be told, Lydia couldn’t help but view her husband’s death as a terrible inconvenience. She has no idea how she can possibly keep the house in the standing she is accustomed to without Andrew’s monetary contributions to the household. Lord knows the money they’d squirreled away is nearly all gone … to places Lydia would rather not admit to. Andrew really was quite rude to leave her with so many problems in her lap … the least of which is the body buried in the garden. But Lydia doesn’t feel too badly about that. The girl was dreadful and quite frankly, deserved what she got in the end.
But despite the impending money troubles looming over her head like an ominous dark cloud, Lydia can’t help but feel a little relieved. Andrew was the perfect man at her side, but only when it came appearances. Under the golden facade, he was a complete disappointment. He couldn’t perform even the simplest of tasks … in Lydia’s eyes, he was less than a man. And when he fumbled the removal of that horrid girl from their lives – that terrible and vile Annie – he set them down a course the likes of which she doesn’t know if she’ll ever be able to turn back to rights. But perhaps …
Her son, her Laurence. He’s the only real bright spot in Lydia’s life … besides Avalon. But the older Laurence becomes, the more she regrettably notices that he wishes to stretch his wings. He wants to get out from under the weight of, well – of his actual weight. Lydia has done her best to bind him to her, and if being overweight and unattractive keeps him at home, she is more than willing to do her part. But no matter the bleak reality of his life, Laurence is determined. He wants to get a job, meet a woman, fall in love and have a home of his own. Lydia doesn’t know if she can ever bear to let Laurence leave her, especially now that he’s the man of the house. And especially as she knows that wherever he goes, she could never follow. She could never leave Avalon. Not ever. She wonders if Laurence would be surprised if he knew just how far she’d go to be his mother – really, to be a mother at all. They need each other, and she’s sure he’ll see that in the end. If not, well – Lydia has contingency plans for her contingency plans.
Karen always knew that her sister Annie was wild. She came into the world kicking and screaming, and spent much of her life doing her best to do things as loudly as possible. Annie drove her parents crazy but Karen … well, she always looked at her sister with a mixture of bemusement and awe. Maybe she secretly wished she could be as brazen. Perhaps she coveted the brave way in which Annie always did exactly as she pleased. Annie was sometimes insufferable but she lived a life as a player, not merely as a spectator.
And as much as her parents complained, the family fell apart the day they realized Annie was gone for good. She’d vanished almost without a trace, the only clue being an older model Jaguar that was sighted around her flat more than once. The family worked with police to try and track the car down but kept coming up with dead ends, except … the dead ends always seemed to end up in Dublin. Try as she might, Karen can’t seem to move on with her life … she can’t seem to get far enough away from the horror of the loss of her Annie.
When Laurence and Karen come together, it’s both a manipulation and a thrill. Is it love, or is it convenience? Is it friendship, or is it a deception? And with Lydia creeping around every shadowy corner like a Black Widow spider, will Karen get caught in a dangerous web that she’ll be unable to untangle herself from?
Lying in Wait is the second novel by Liz Nugent, an author who has spread her writing talents over many facets of the industry. Her resume also includes several prestigious awards, such as the Crime Novel of the Year for her first book, Unravelling Oliver.
Gaaaaaah, I just loved this book. It was gritty and gross and compelling. I think I swallowed it whole in about 24hours, finding myself unable to look away from the portrait of the ultimate dysfunctional family. Lydia’s character was a fascinating study of a sociopath and narcissist, and the bizarre but clinical way that she went about her machinations bordered horrifically on the brilliant. Laurence was a lumbering dolt who had redeeming qualities but mostly left me cringing, and Karen was so naive and sweet that it nearly gave me a toothache. The supporting cast of characters were drawn just as well, and the blanket of darkness that fell over this plot was breathtakingly creative.
I give this novel 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it to those who particularly enjoy Gillian Flynn’s writing style and dirty plots.