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Friday 3 November 2023

‘A Thousand Lies’ by Laura Wilson

Published by Orion.
16 February 2006.
ISBN: 978-0-75285-982-8 (HB)

A Thousand Lies is Laura Wilson's sixth psychological crime novel. She once said at a Mystery Women meeting that she liked to experience what she was writing about and gave as an example the drowning in the bath incident in Dying Voices, her intention was to be held under water not to drown. She has moved into more terrifying psychological plots and, one hopes, she no longer experiences them all.

In A Thousand Lies all the families have damaged lives. Amy Vaughan is a journalist whose mother, Patti, subjected her daughter to Munchausen By Proxy abuse in order to regain the attention of her wayward husband. She finds she is related to a family, the Shands, whose father subjects his daughter, Sheila, to horrifying sexual experiences weekly from when the child was twelve years old, and his wife to extreme physical violence. Incidental characters in the novel have suffered lesser, but still considerable, traumatic experiences in childhood. In fact, there seems to be no approach to normality, if such exists, in any of the families involved.

This makes her novel sound depressing, and I haven't included the woman's skeleton found in the wood and the murder of a new‑born baby. So look for an ending which is "making the best of what is left" rather than "living happily ever after" for the five people who are left alive at the end of the book.

Like other writers of psychological novels, and Minette Walters comes to mind, Laura Wilson is more concerned with mystery novels that explore "Why done it" rather than "Who done it". The novel starts with the finding of a skeleton in the woods and the murderer is not revealed until near the end of the book. The incidents that lead to this discovery are told through two main characters, Amy and Sheila, and through three diaries which have been kept by Sheila and Mo, the two sisters, and Iris, the mother._ The opportunities the book gives the writer to explore the minds and styles of her characters and to get under their skins are quite remarkable. As in her other books, she moves comfortably and accurately through the more recent years of the twentieth century, in this case 1950 to 1987.

I like her style, her use of dialogue and the mixture she presents of detailed descriptions of houses, streets, institutions and interiors.  I like her use of unusual word associations and her own creation of words. For example, "a landscape of feral mattresses", an old people's home is "a geriatric gulag".  Houses are described as Tudorbethan and Jacobethan. Some interesting similes you can discover for yourself. Altogether it makes a convincing, compelling and fascinating if, at times, disturbing read.
Reviewer: Rosemary Brown

Laura Wilson was brought up in London and has degrees in English literature from Somerville College, Oxford, and UCL, She is the author of thirteen acclaimed psychological crime novels. She is the crime fiction reviewer for the Guardian newspaper and teaches on the City University Crime Thriller Novel Creative Writing MA course. She lives in Islington, London, 

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