An honour one can acquire on Goodreads is to have written the ‘go to’ review for readers who had a very strong positive or negative reaction to a particular book. I’ve not achieved the former—proud as I am of my reviews of Dare Me & The Likeness—in several cases I fear I’ve accomplished the latter, to have written the review that captures perfectly the faults of a book. My review of C. L. Taylor’s The Accident seems to be one of them. I’ve felt guilty about that ever since, because the manifold faults in that story might have been obviated by better editing (‘no, lambs aren’t “happy” to be roasted’; ‘the I in ICU stands for “intensive”; that means they don’t casually allow strangers to stroll into the ward and try murder the patients’; ‘no, Sylvia Plath didn’t drown herself in her kitchen’) when like all of us, the author was having a momentary attack of the stupids.
Guilty because subsequently I won a signed copy of the author’s next book, The Lie—& it reads on the title-page: ‘To Bill, I hope you enjoy The Lie. All the best. C. L. Taylor.’ It was confession time. I posted a comment on Goodreads: ‘Is my face red! Talk about turning the other cheek. I wrote a snarffy review of C. L. Taylor’s The Accident & now thanks to A. J. Waines I’ve received a signed copy of Taylor’s next book The Lie. Mea culpa! I promise tho’ to amend my life, to read it with care & to try to write the most generous & thoughtful review I can, consistent of course with telling the truth. As I love the theme of double and false identities, I really hope this one will work for me & in the meantime thanks very much to both A. J. & C. L.’
For over a year it sat accusingly @ my bedside whilst accumulating good reviews from other readers. When I finally took the plunge, The Lie indeed reveals itself to be an excellent read. It does tho’ have one feature I’m growing to dislike intensely, the two-track narrative scheme with the same 1st-person narrator, one set in the present & the other in the past. (See also The Roanoke Girls.) As the present-tense narrator (unless amnesiac) already knows how the backstory (here 5 yrs ago) turned out, as a reader I feel played with or jerked around by the author’s pretense to keep me in suspense. But The Lie has as well a theme I love, the principal character who invents a new identity for herself & what happens when the past intrudes.
The backstory is mostly set in a hippy cult commune in Nepal called Ekanta Yatra where 4 BFs, Leanne, Daisy, Al & Emma/later-Jane go on holiday. Only (shouldn’t that be ‘twoly’?) Al & Jane/formerly-Emma) come back to England, & they’re not Fs anymore. What happened to them turns out to be both fascinating & quite harrowing. Isaac, the cult leader, is a particularly vile specimen who talks Tavistock Square jargon in a revoltingly lower-class Scots accent reproduced in all its ugliness in the Audible edition. Even tho’ I have a strong aversion to DV (& there turns out to be a lot in this book), as an adventure thriller The Lie gripped me completely once I got into it on audio @ about 1/2 way. The present story isn’t as riveting & I thought a bit less plausible. What works in an exotic setting (as I read The Lie, I was often reminded of Katy Gardner’s Losing Gemma, tho’ their denouements are very different) loses its flavour & sparkle as a domestic. That may be why The Accident failed to entertain me.
If you’ve not yet read the book & love perilous escape thrillers, I highly recommend The Lie, especially if you like dual-track story lines. So, thank you very much C. L. Taylor, I did indeed ‘enjoy The Lie’.