REVIEW: LYING IN WAIT, BY LIZ NUGENT

 

My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.

On the surface, Lydia Fitzsimons has the perfect life—wife of a respected, successful judge, mother to a beloved son, mistress of a beautiful house in Dublin. That beautiful house, however, holds a secret. And when Lydia’s son, Laurence, discovers its secret, wheels are set in motion that lead to an increasingly claustrophobic and devastatingly dark climax.

 

My Thoughts: Lying in Wait has been described as “seductively sinister,” and from the very first page, we become aware of the strangely dark voice of Lydia Fitzsimons, wife to the judge and mother to her only son Laurence. Lydia is one of those narcissistic women who is primarily focused on herself and her needs, and her apparent overwhelming love for son Laurence is really more about what she needs from him. When her darkness turns pathological, she becomes an interesting study in mental illness.

Her husband Andrew didn’t stand a chance. His poor choices were all about serving her needs, too, and those would come back to haunt him.

The intersecting lives of Andrew, Lydia, and Laurence with Annie Doyle, her sister Karen, and her parents have their twisted origins in one dreadful night when everything went out of control.

But then we learn that way back in the past, Lydia’s true colors showed themselves at a tragic event when she was nine years old.

Would Laurence be able to extricate himself from the grasping control of his mother? Could he continue to bury the secret that was lying in wait to come out? Or would his mother’s twisted needs turn everything upside down?

Set in Dublin in the 1980s, the story immediately hooked me, with the dark and disturbing characters and their secrets; I couldn’t stop turning the pages, loving every minute with them all, curiously wondering how it would all end. 5 stars.***My e-ARC came from the publishers via NetGalley.

REVIEW: WHITE BODIES, BY JANE ROBINS

 

This chilling psychological suspense novel—think Strangers on a Train for the modern age—explores the dark side of love and the unbreakable ties that bind twin sisters together.

Felix and Tilda seem like the perfect couple: young and in love, a financier and a beautiful, up-and-coming starlet. But behind their flawless façade, not everything is as it seems.

Callie, Tilda’s unassuming twin, has watched her sister visibly shrink under Felix’s domineering love. She has looked on silently as Tilda stopped working, nearly stopped eating, and turned into a neat freak, with mugs wrapped in Saran Wrap and suspicious syringes hidden in the bathroom trash. She knows about Felix’s uncontrollable rages, and has seen the bruises on the white skin of her sister’s arms.

Worried about the psychological hold that Felix seems to have over Tilda, Callie joins an Internet support group for victims of abuse and their friends. However, things spiral out of control and she starts to doubt her own judgment when one of her new acquaintances is killed by an abusive man. And then suddenly Felix dies—or was he murdered?

My Thoughts: Nothing is as it seems in White Bodies. Domestic abuse is the primary theme, but the lines between victims and abusers is not all that clear. The story unfolds from Callie’s first person POV.

You might think you have it figured out, and then you realize that more is afoot. Why is Tilda clinging to Felix and refusing to acknowledge his abuse? Why is she shutting out her twin and everyone else, refusing to work?

Callie’s tendency to watch and to obsess over her twin sister’s life might be a red flag. When Tilda isolates herself and shows up with bruises, it all seems very clear. Until it isn’t.

An Internet group called Controlling Men reels Callie in, and she soon finds herself “bossed around” by one of the members. Should she be worried? A strange so-called “deal” is made, and then Callie finds herself in a very disturbing place.

I could not stop turning the pages, wondering what was going on and hoping to find the answers, which were totally unexpected. 4.5 stars.***

REVIEW: EMMA IN THE NIGHT, BY WENDY WALKER

One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.
My Thoughts: Emma in the Night was a story that began when Cassandra Tanner came home, three years after she and her sister Emma had disappeared. Jonathan and Judy Martin remained at the family home, and when Judy opened the door upon Cass’s knock, she didn’t seem to recognize her daughter. Or was she pretending?

Alternating narrators take us from the past to the present and back again, weaving together a tale of a narcissistic mother, a cruel stepfather and his equally cruel son, and two sisters who learned at an early age that love means playing tricks and resorting to emotional weapons. A bitter custody battle, a home that was a battleground, and uncertainty of one’s place in the world or in the family would create the kinds of scenarios that unfold in this novel.

Dr. Abigail (Abby) Winter and Leo Strauss are FBI agents tasked with interviewing Cass and her family. The stories Cass tells are interspersed with her reflections and thoughts about past events. She constructs a story that will capture the interest of the media and the agents…and then, at some point, the story starts unraveling as Abby realizes that some things about Cass’s tale feel contrived. They don’t quite add up.

I thought it was interesting that Cass referred to her mother as Mrs. Martin, even to her face. It was clear that there was no love lost between them, although Judy Martin, the mother, was good at putting a perfect face on things. Sometimes she could even fool her daughters, making them believe that she loved them. She definitely needed to “win” whatever battle they were playing, garnering all the attention from whoever happened to be in the room.

Very cleverly drawn, the characters felt real, while their actions had me wondering what to believe, even as I wanted everything to come together in a picture perfect way at the end.

Abby’s narratives were astute and it was clear that she had expertise with the narcissistic personality due to her own family life. Sometimes she worried that she wasn’t objective, but in the end, her assessment was spot on.

I liked how we slowly discovered the truth…and then were left with a bit of hope, along with some fear for the future. 5 stars.


***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: THE PERFECT MOTHER, BY NINA DARNTON

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The nightmare begins for the Lewis family with a phone call in the middle of the night.

Mark and Jennifer Lewis have been living a comfortable life in Philadelphia: Mark with his law practice, and Jennifer managing the home and priding herself on how well their three children are doing. Emma, age 20, has been an exchange student in Spain for a few months; Lily is 16 and doing well; and so is Eric, age 8.

Their illusions of the perfect life are dispelled that night when Emma’s call reveals that she has been arrested and that a young man has been killed. Her boyfriend Paco, with whom she was living, has fled. And much of what Emma has been doing and how she has been living are in direct opposition to what her parents have believed.

By the time Jennifer gets to Spain, after Mark had arranged for a lawyer over there, she is caught up in the chaos of a legal system and a culture that are foreign to her and a daughter who is alternately sullen and verbally abusive, or pleading and emotional.

Emma’s story does not add up, and she refuses to change it or cooperate in any way, which leads to an incarceration that seems unlikely to end any time soon.

With the help of a private investigator, Jennifer begins to find answers to what must have happened, but persuading Emma to cooperate will take a lot more than her best efforts.

What unexpected breakthroughs will occur to finally turn things around? Will the blessed solution finally bring peace to the family? With freedom near at hand, the nightmare is over. Or is it?

Back home, Emma seems to thrive on her new celebrity and is going on with her life as if nothing had occurred. Watching her daughter’s behavior, Jennifer must ask herself some hard questions: What responsibility must a mother face when her child goes astray, and what long lasting effect will all of it have on her, as well as the child?

Just when I thought everything had finally fallen into place, a last piece of information arrives on their doorstep, with a secret piece of the puzzle that will leave Jennifer blindsided, wondering what, if anything, she should do. A stunning reveal that, in light of other tidbits of information, should not have really surprised me. The Perfect Mother was an engaging read that kept me turning pages, and even though I found Emma unlikeable, and Jennifer took on too much of the blame for her daughter’s behavior, I liked it enough to award 4.5 stars.