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Friday, 31 March 2023

‘The Ugly Truth’ by L.C. North

Published by Bantam,
16 March 2023.
ISBN: 978-1-78763637-8 (HB)

It’s a brave author who sets about creating a whole new set of rules for her novel, but L C North lacks neither courage nor skill. The Ugly Truth is her debut, and it brings the whole concept of crime fiction firmly into the 2020s, combining tense drama with a delve into the nature and pitfalls of celebrity, and making use of assorted social media and broadcast formats to tell the story from two sides.

No two versions of events are ever identical; and sometimes those versions differ so widely that you wonder if the witnesses saw the same thing. This novel goes even further – readers are invited to take sides and reach their own conclusions about whose ‘truth’ to believe. Social media celebrity Melanie Lange has disappeared; one day her face and voice were everywhere, the next she was nowhere to be seen. Melanie has always been a wild child, notorious rather than famous, and her father, business tycoon Sir Peter Lange, has often had cause to despair of her.

His version is that Melanie has been admitted to a private clinic for her own safety. He describes her adolescence and young adulthood through a series of interviews with a ghost writer researching his autobiography, and a sad tale it turns out to be, of a girl with her finger permanently on the self-destruct button.

Melanie’s side is told partly through brief YouTube posts in which she claims she has been imprisoned with no means of escape. These are backed up by a series of interviews with her best friend, her ex-husband and various other people who have been involved with her, supposedly meant to form the basis of a Netflix documentary; and a Twitter feed which invites people to support Melanie, complete with comments which swing both ways.

It’s a structure which allows the story to unfold gradually, and makes the reader’s (this one’s, anyway) sympathy veer from one side to the other as Melanie is presented as spoilt brat and emotionally abused child in turn. It doesn’t make much concession to the conventional building blocks of fiction, character, setting and plot. Though aspects of the main players’ personalities do emerge, it’s hard to know what is the reality, and what is filtered through their own perception of themselves. Whichever ‘truth’ you decide to believe, ugly it certainly is.

The sum total is possibly the most original crime novel you’ll read this year. It may not be to everyone’s taste, especially readers who like their fiction to follow a familiar pattern, but it’s certainly an interesting, maybe even ground-breaking, way to tell a story. Who knows, this could be the shape of crime writing to come.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

L.C. North studied psychology at university before pursuing a career in Public Relations. Her first book club thriller - The Ugly Truth - combines her love of psychology and her fascination with the celebrities in the public eye. L.C. North is currently working on her second novel, and when she's not writing, she co-hosts the crime thriller podcast, In Suspense. She lives on the Suffolk borders with her family. L.C. North is the pen name of Lauren North.  Readers can follow her on Twitter @Lauren_C_North and Facebook @LaurenNorthAuthor.

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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