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Tuesday 31 October 2023

‘Between the Lies’ by Louise Tickle

Published by Cinto Press,
19 October 2023.
978-1-73913-497-6 (HB)

Courtroom reporting in the media makes headlines out of big issues like organized crime, miscarriages of justice and murder – but there’s a whole other world of legal drama which journalists are hardly ever allowed to report. So, what’s left for a good journalist who specializes in that area? Fiction, of course. It may be about made-up people in a made-up world, but that doesn’t stop it from portraying it how it is in the real world. 

In Louise Tickle’s other life, she is an investigative journalist of considerable renown, and her specialty is what goes on behind closed doors in the family courts: the murky world of who gets what in a divorce, what happens to the children, and as often as not, who did what to whom when a marriage breaks down and things get messy. The law places far tighter restrictions on what can be reported there than in ordinary criminal courts – but if you’re unable to report the facts verbatim, there’s nothing to stop you putting them in a story. And that’s what Louise has done.

At nine years old, Cherry Magraw was caught in the crossfire when her abusive father killed her mother and she herself failed to rescue her toddler brother from his clutches. She was sent to live with her aunt’s family, and for the most part was able to enjoy a normal childhood, but that kind of beginning inevitably leaves scars.

She becomes a freelance journalist specializing in the secret world of the family courts and has just embarked on a new project when she receives a letter from her father, who is still in prison. Her past comes back to haunt her, and suddenly she can’t trust herself to be objective about the family whose progress she is following.

Between the Lies is no ordinary piece of crime fiction, and there’s no mystery about who committed the murder. But neither is its reportage thinly disguised as fiction; the well-drawn and relatable characters make sure of that. Most of the leading players are just a little larger than life in order to drive the point home, though never enough to make them unbelievable. I especially liked Eliza, the spiky, unconventional barrister, and Eric, the part-time librarian and PhD student, who both bring a breath of fresh air into Cherry Magraw’s life and light into the dark corners of the narrative.  

Some of the tropes crime fiction readers know and love are woven seamlessly in; there’s even a car chase, leading to a dramatic denouement on a Pembrokeshire clifftop which is so beautiful you simply know disaster will strike. But plenty of unfamiliar material is equally well woven in and fulfils one of the main purposes of fiction – to let the reader in to an unfamiliar world. As well as the family court, we also get a peek behind the scenes of a freelance journalist’s life.

The action takes place in a forbidding courtroom, in Cherry’s comfortable flat (I really envy her that sofa!), in a house refurbished Country Living style made messy by small children, and in several other  highly visual locations which all provide the perfect backdrop to what’s going on at the time.

In other words, Louise Tickle has picked up the crime novel, added her own spin and run away with it. It’s gripping, readable, informative, and best of all, like real life it refuses to provide answers to all the questions and tie up all the loose ends. If this author decides to add fiction to her considerable portfolio on an ongoing basis, her name is well worth looking out for. I certainly shall.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Louise Tickle is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster who specialises in reporting on domestic abuse, family courts and child protection. Louise is a committee member of The Transparency Project which aims to promote greater understanding of family law. confident and engaging public speaker and commentator, Louise is available to chair conferences, workshops and seminars. She is based near Bristol. She heads west to the Pembrokeshire coast and its spectacular island wildlife with her partner and two sons whenever she can. Between the Lies is her first novel.

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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