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Wednesday, 8 May 2019

‘The Shape of Lies’ by Rachel Abbott

Published by Black Dot Publishing,
8 February 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-9999437-2-1 (PB)

Everybody lies, and everyone has secrets. But some lies and secrets are bigger than others, and the bigger they are, the more toxic they become, especially when there's a threat of exposure. And in crime fiction, protagonists can be absolutely certain their lies and secrets will be exposed.

Anna Franklyn's secret is pretty huge, and the lies she's had to tell to keep it under wraps are big as well. Ten years after it all began, she has built a life worth protecting – but thanks to a radio phone-in show, that life is in danger of collapsing like a house of cards in a breeze. And as if that wasn't enough, another name from the past she wants to forget comes up as part of a murder investigation.

That's all I'm saying about the plot of this taut page-turner of a thriller. Anything more would risk being a spoiler; right up to the final completely unexpected twist Rachel Abbott is a past master at building tension by releasing information a little a time.

She's also a dab hand at creating characters with the ring of reality, and drawing the reader into their story in a way which keeps you reading when you really ought to be doing something else – like sleeping, or eating. We see two versions of Anna: the naïve teenager who trusts the wrong people and gets into some deep hot water, and the poised, confident wife, mother and head teacher with a stable lifestyle. They both live and breathe, and I had no problem believing that the first version could evolve into the second.

The murder case which threatens Anna's stability means a welcome return for DCI Tom Douglas, who also has a life which feels real, and is getting a bit complicated. Likewise, his sidekick DI Becky Robinson, back from maternity leave and raring to get stuck in to a meaty case, though we don't see much of her life outside work.

One thing Abbott is especially skilled at is bad guys who are really bad. Here there are two corkers: Cameron the loan shark and Jagger the thug. A couple more are a bit ambiguous, and that's equally well done.

In fact, taken all round, this is a book I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to any fan of crime fiction or psychological thrillers. And anyone who knows me will confirm that I don't often say that about a self-published book. Then again, Rachel Abbott is no ordinary self-publisher. She has made it work, in terms of both commercial success and good old-fashioned quality.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Rachel Abbott was born just outside Manchester, England.   She became a systems analyst at the age of 21 in the early 1970s, and formed her own software company in the mid 1980s designing computer programmes for education.   The company expanded into all forms of interactive media and became extremely successful. The sale of the company in 2000 enabled her to take early retirement and fulfil one of her lifelong ambitions - to buy and restore a property in Italy.  Once there she completely restored a ruined onastery and started a second successful business renting it out for weddings and conferences. In 2010 she embarked on her third career and wrote her first book Only the Innocent.

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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