Book Review: Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent

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

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.

Book Reviews: A Legacy of Spies by John le Carré and The Trespasser by Tana French

A Legacy of Spies
John le Carré
Viking, September 2017
ISBN: 978-0-7352-2511-4
Hardcover

The Cold War may have ended many years ago in real life, but not for John le Carré, who has now written a fascinating book derived from two of his earlier George Smiley novels, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  Smiley merely plays a background role in Legacy.  Instead, Peter Guillam, his disciple, who retired from the Circus (the British Secret Service) to the family farmstead in southern France, plays a central part in the story.

Peter receives a letter summoning him to London where he is instructed to review files and interrogated about an operation during the Cold War in which an operative and a source were killed.  It would appear that a potential parliamentary inquiry or even a civil action blaming Peter and others for the deaths and seeking monetary damages, brought by the offspring of the two unfortunate victims, is possible.

As Peter reviews the material, le Carré recreates the times and travails of the period, as we relive through the actions of the characters conditions in East Berlin and the spy craft during the Cold War.  It is history recreated with all the tensions of the period, excellently written with humor and panache.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, November 2017.

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The Trespasser
Dublin Murder Squad #6
Tana French
Penguin, August 2017
ISBN: 978-0-1431-1038-5
Trade Paperback

Antoinette Conway and her partner, Stephen Moran (who she brought on board in the Dublin Murder Squad after working with him in a previous novel) are the newbies in the elite Irish police group, and as such, only receive humdrum domestic dispute assignments.  Until one day the gaffer hands them what turns out to be a murder case of a pretty young woman.  The case turns out to be anything but a simple lovers quarrel.

Antoinette, the only female on the squad, takes a lot of guff from other members (who want her anywhere else), and her resentment shows throughout the book.  While she enjoys her work, she contemplates leaving for an offer in the private sector.  Meanwhile, she has a murder to solve as her first lead detective case and goes about it diligently if somewhat misdirected by an experienced detective assigned to work with the partners for reasons not revealed until the end.

One criticism I made in the previous novel by Tana French was that it was tedious and slow reading.  The same is true of The Trespasser.  One has to plod through a couple of hundred pages of continual repetition before it all begins to make sense.  And then, and only then, does the reading become enjoyable and worthwhile and the plot begin to come together.  The novel would have been rated at a higher level had it not been for this criticism.  Certainly, Ms French writes well and creates clever plots.  One could wish she would now turn her attention to some judicious editing.  That said, the novel is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, August 2017.