Book Review: Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent

Lying in Wait
Liz Nugent
Gallery/Scout Press, June 2018
ISBN 978-1-5011-6777-5

A fast-paced, unsettling story of murder and psychosis in Dublin, Ireland. From the first sentence we know that the distinguished jurist Andrew Fitzsimmons killed Annie Doyle. Why we don’t find out for much of the book but we begin to see how the event affected the respective families right away. Andrew Fitzsimmons is overwhelmed with guilt and remorse, his wife Lydia around whom everyone else revolves blames Annie for the entire situation, and their coddled son Laurence just knows something is badly wrong with his parents. The Doyles are distraught with the disappearance of their problematic daughter and even more so when the police investigation uncovers drug use and prostitution in Annie’s recent past. Annie had already disappointed them by becoming pregnant out of wedlock a few years earlier, and her strict father committed her to one of the famous Irish baby homes. When Annie came home after two years, she was indelibly changed.

The book begins in 1980 with the murder and ends in 2016 with a stunning resolution. Each chapter is told from the perspective of Lydia, Laurence, or Karen, Annie’s sister. Karen in particular is a sympathetic character whose life is devastated by the disappearance of her sister. Lydia seems to be self-centered and possessive at the start, perhaps to be expected of an only child from a wealthy family, and then the gaps in her empathy with anyone she encounters including her husband begin to point to something much more serious. The person most affected is her son Laurence, upon whom she focuses all of attention.

The other characters – Judge Fitzsimmons, his mother and brother, the Doyle parents, the police, Laurence’s coworkers and girlfriends – are all filtered through the lens of Karen, Lydia, and Laurence but because the narrator is so clearly defined it is easy to sort through the narrator’s perceptions to understand what these other people are thinking and feeling. The girls attracted to Laurence, a sheltered, obese teen when the book opens, are an interesting reflection of his own internal state and his maturation process.

A fascinating and troubling book. Starred reviews from Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist.

Reviewed by Aubrey Hamilton, May 2018.