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Sunday 15 May 2022

‘The Daughter’ by Liz Webb

Published by Allison & Busby,
19 May 2022.
ISBN: 978-0-74902875-6 (HB)

Families, eh? Nightmare. Can’t live with them, can’t get away from them.

The Davidsons are about as dysfunctional as families get. Wild child mother Jen died twenty-three years ago – did she commit suicide, or was she murdered? Stolid father Philip was suspected of killing her but never charged; he now has dementia and lives largely in the past. Elder son Reece is the one who did get away; he went off to university shortly after Jen’s death, never came back, and even changed his name.

And then there’s Hannah, the most dysfunctional of them all. She has returned home, ostensibly to care for her ailing father but really on the run from secrets of her own. Hannah is her dead mother’s spitting image, and now she’s even the same age as her mother was when she died.

Things happen which ignite Hannah’s curiosity: what, exactly, is her father apologizing for when his wandering mind relives that dreadful time? What made Reece disappear so completely from their lives? What lay behind Jen’s frequent absences from home? Why are the next door neighbours, who used to be a second family to Hannah and Reece, behaving so oddly? And most important of all, what did happen to her mother all those years ago? As she sets out in search of answers, one secret after another, including her own, comes crawling out of the woodwork, until she is forced to realize nothing is as she has believed it to be for the past twenty-three years.

It all adds up to a quirky, unusual mystery novel with an unconventional protagonist straight out of the ‘unreliable narrator’ mould. Hannah isn’t the only colourful, slightly larger than life character; all the players, leading and supporting, leap to life on the page, even Philip, who is comatose for much of the story.

There’s plenty of atmosphere too – the slightly sinister woodland where Jen’s body was found; the distinctly spooky cellar full of evidence of her photography career and her louche private life; the entire family home, cluttered with memories and detritus from the past; the photographer’s studio she worked at, as seedy as its owner.

If it hadn’t been made clear, I would never have guessed this was a debut novel. It’s crisply written, well plotted and paced, and engrossing from the start.

Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Liz Webb originally trained as a classical dancer, then worked as a secretary, stationery shop manager, art class model, cocktail waitress, stand-up comic, voice-over artist, script editor and radio drama producer, before becoming a novelist. She lives in North London with her husband, son and serial killer cat Freddie. The Daughter is her debut book.

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 in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.


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