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Tuesday 8 August 2017

‘Every Last Lie’ by Mary Kubica

Published by HQ (HarperCollins),
27 June 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-8484560-0 (PB)

Secrets emerging after the death of a spouse is a theme that tends to recur in psychological thrillers, but when it popped up in Mary Kubica's latest contribution to the sub-genre I was pretty confident it wouldn't progress along hackneyed lines. This sure-footed author didn't disappoint; Every Last Lie picks up a familiar trope and mines it for previously unexplored ramifications.

Clara and Nick Solberg's marriage appears to be made in heaven. He has a successful dental practice; she takes care of four-year-old Maisie and newborn Felix. Then one night soon after Felix is born the worst happens: the police arrive to inform Clara that Nick is dead, following a high-speed car accident, from which, miraculously, Maisie has escaped almost unscathed.

That's only the beginning of the nightmare. Over the next few weeks Clara is dealing with new motherhood, an abused neighbour, and her parents; her mother has dementia and her father is struggling with the support he wants to give them both. At the same time she makes discovery after unpalatable discovery, about money, about Nick's business, about the circumstances of his death, and more. She recalls his edginess in the days before the crash, finds the names of women, asks herself the inevitable question about them.

In fact questions abound, piling one on the other to form an insurmountable barrier to the continuation of real life. Who is the 'bad man', the memory of whom drives Maisie to hysteria? What was the significance of the black car seen leaving the scene of the accident? Why has money disappeared from her father's bank account? What does their abusive neighbour have to do with it all?

Clara's life becomes a roller-coaster of emotion and problems to solve, and any woman who has given birth will empathize with the tangle in her brain. She is surrounded by a cast of characters who all emerge as sharp and interesting, from Maisie, one of the most real four-year-olds I've encountered in fiction, via neighbours, staff of Nick's clinic and people involved with the accident, to her father, her mother, and Izzy, who helps to care for her.

And interleaved with Clara's unfolding story is Nick's, told in flashback: the true version of the events which Clara's sleep-deprived, hormone-addled brain is interpreting in a rather different way, but drip-fed in a way that maintains the tension.

The denouement is a brave one; not many authors could pull it off. Mary Kubica does; I was left thinking the book couldn't have ended any other way. But mainly it's a book about people, and how they cope, or fail to, when their world threatens to fall apart. I couldn't put it down.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Mary Kubica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature.  She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children and enjoys photography, gardening, and caring for the animals at a local shelter.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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