Lying in Wait | Liz Nugent | 2016 | Penguin Ireland | 320p | Review copy | Buy the book
Avalon is the grand home of Judge Andrew Fitzsimons, his wife Lydia and their son Laurence, located within a smart part of 1980s’ Dublin. But this richness, wealth, success is as fragile as the thinnest ice. If you look closely, Avalon’s furnishings might look a little tired, distressed, but, above all else, you’re advised to avoid the ugly raised flowerbed in the extensive gardens, which, wherever you are, pulls the eye towards it.
It’s Lydia who begins the story and she goes straight to the point: ‘My husband did not mean to kill Anne Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it’. And from that moment on, as the story moves through the years, the presence of the murdered Annie shadows the Fitzsimons and the Doyles, the lives of both families inextricably linked since that day of violence in 1980. The only difference is that one family knows exactly what happened to Annie, while the other simply knows that their beloved, albeit troubled, daughter and sister disappeared into thin air, taking their happiness with her.
Lying in Wait is an intense psychological novel with a very tight focus on three main characters (Lydia, her son Laurence and Karen, Annie’s sister), each of whom tells us their story. It is Laurence, caught between the truth of what his parents did and his need to make things right for the beautiful Karen, who pulls the novel together, his state of mind brilliantly reflected in his body shape and extreme hunger.
As was demonstrated in her last novel, the excellent Unravelling Oliver, Liz Nugent is a master of psychological insight and maintaining tension within the smallest of theatres. The reader might be allowed to know that little bit more than some of the characters but the outcome is almost guaranteed to shock, just as the development of some characters comes as quite a surprise.
While I didn’t find Lying in Wait to be as perfect as Unravelling Oliver (considering how marvellous that novel was, this can hardly be a surprise), it is nevertheless one of the stronger psychological novels I’ve read. The Southern Ireland setting also adds depth to the novel’s context, in terms of voice, culture and social conditioning, as well as directly contributing to the development of some of the characters – I liked that a great deal. This is a relatively short novel but Lying in Wait packs a punch way beyond its size.