Liar by Lesley Pearse
On picking up this latest novel by Lesley Pearse, having read several of her others, I felt I knew what to expect. Lesley writes about likeable but flawed, strong-minded yet naïve young women from disadvantaged backgrounds or difficult circumstances making their way in the world. The tales usually involve insight into an historical period, personal growth, some romance, a mystery and even murder. Liar is her 28th book in as many years and indeed this novel follows the pattern.
Set in bustling London of the early 1970s, Amelia left an unhappy home life as a teenager and experienced the fun and freedom of the flower power, hippy movement of the 1960s but now lives a lonely life in a tiny bedsit working for a local newspaper selling advertising. On returning home one day, she discovers a woman’s body in a pile of rubbish left uncollected by striking dustmen.
Prompted to find out more, she visits the murdered woman’s family and begins to ask questions. She writes about the murder for her paper and meets a handsome and attractive neighbour, Max. The mystery deepens as a second woman and a third are murdered. Amelia continues to ask questions and puts herself in danger.
At the same time Amelia is searching for the sense of belonging that she’s craved ever since leaving home and distancing herself from her dysfunctional family. Is Amelia’s good-looking new boyfriend Max really ‘the one’, a man who will stick by her forever and always, unlike the previous males in her life? Will her new friend Kat, her crusty boss Jack, her workmates and the friendly policeman who is posted outside her flat give her the security she seeks. As she navigates who she can trust and where she can find safety she begins to realise that people may not be as they seem.
Lesley is an accomplished storyteller, and people and places are deftly detailed, while the momentum of the mystery of the murders draw the reader on. And I couldn’t help becoming attached to Amelia as she navigates her way through the difficulties life has thrown her way. Her caring nature and naivete balanced by her determination and bravery kept me turning the page, hoping that despite the deceptions she would find her answers, both to the murders and to her loneliness. This novel also draws attention to the effect bullying can have and to the way in which childhood experiences can affect people’s lives, showing an understanding of the trauma countless people experience in their lives. I would recommend this novel as an absorbing, engaging and interesting read. To those of you who have already read some of this author’s many books, you will need no recommendation.
Reviewer: Clare Lyon
Published by Penguin