All The Books I Can Read

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Review: The Lying Room by Nicci French

on October 10, 2019

The Lying Room 
Nicci French
Simon & Schuster
2019, 432p
Copy courtesy Simon & Schuster AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Neve Connolly looks down at a murdered man.
She doesn’t call the police.

‘You know, it’s funny,’ Detective Inspector Hitching said. ‘Whoever I see, they keep saying, talk to Neve Connolly, she’ll know. She’s the one people talk to, she’s the one people confide in.’

A trusted colleague and friend. A mother. A wife. Neve Connolly is all these things.

She has also made mistakes; some small, some unconsciously done, some large, some deliberate. She is only human, after all. But now one mistake is spiralling out of control and Neve is bringing those around her into immense danger. She can’t tell the truth. So how far is she prepared to go to protect those she loves? And who does she really know? And who can she trust?

A liar. A cheat. A threat. Neve Connolly is all these things. Could she be a murderer?

The only Nicci French books I’ve read are the Freida Klein series, which were extremely good so I was looking forward to this, their first stand alone novel in a long time. Nicci French is the pen name for married writing pair Sean French and Nicci Gerrard and a tight crime novel was just what I was looking for.

Neve Connolly gets a surprise message from her lover that he’s free and she should come and meet him at his private flat, where they often have their romantic interludes. However when Neve arrives she discovers him dead and instead of calling the police, she thinks about what the consequences of that might be. Her husband, her children….her family. And so she rolls up her sleeves and sets about systematically removing any trace of herself from his apartment, scrubbing the place from top to bottom. And then she goes home.

One thing I sometimes find about crime novels is that when people know something that others don’t, they often don’t act in ways that I think someone would. This however, is not true about Neve. She’s basically a mess – and that’s how she should be. She discovered her lover, dead. Murdered. So she is grieving that but she also cannot tell anyone that she’s grieving, especially before it’s been publicly discovered and announced that he is dead. He’s also her boss, so there’s a lot of people that she knows that know him too. And then, she’s also committed a crime (or is it several crimes?) by removing any trace of herself from the apartment, by cleaning up what is a crime scene with valuable evidence, by not reporting it right away. She does eventually report it, anonymously when it looks like no one else is going to, because he was supposed to be going overseas on a business trip and wouldn’t be noticed missing for some time. When she’s in the office, Neve makes mistakes, she stumbles, she comments things that should probably stick out. Honestly, with how dodgy she’s acting, I don’t know how she didn’t draw more interest from the Detective, who keeps popping up at the most inopportune times just for “informal chats”. He obviously knew that she knew a lot more than she was letting on and was trying to catch her off guard in some way so that something might be revealed but despite being a total mess, Neve manages to mostly keep her nerve when he’s around and stonewall his probing.

I found this an interesting moral dilemma while I was reading it. When Neve arrives, he is already dead, so there’s nothing she can do to save him. So her thoughts are self-preservation and her family, she has to save them from the fallout of her extramarital relationship becoming public. And then in the few days after, Neve has even more of a reason to keep quiet, considering someone was there at the crime scene after her. Even though she’s not the killer, she destroys valuable evidence in her attempts to remove traces of herself. She stonewalls the investigation time and time again. And yet I can see why she was doing it, given the troubles the family had had in recent times. It doesn’t excuse it for me…..but I found that I could understand it. It wasn’t just about the fact that she’d had an affair and didn’t want her husband to know. There were more complicated things at play than that. Neve has some stone cold nerves scrubbing down that apartment with her lover’s dead body just a few metres away. And they mostly carry her through, even when it looks like everything is crashing down.  At a time of great stress, Neve’s life gets even more chaotic as a simple college reunion seems to lead to a pack of people descending upon her house, her close friend is having her own marital problems, everyone has stresses about money and even her lover’s wife wants to suddenly connect with her. Neve truly is the person people seem to confide in, the quintessential caring wife and mother and supportive friend. Her relationship with her daughter is troubled and it seems as though she and her husband have had a very rough time with her. She’s now ready to leave for university and I feel as though Neve is just…..keeping on going. Trying to hold everything together. If she can just get through this time and get her daughter off to university, she will be able to breathe again. At times she comes across as completely unhinged as she lies to everyone around her, especially the Detective, in order to protect herself from the consequences of being the first person in the flat that day. And yet somehow through it all, she still keeps her nerve, even while people are camped out in her house, she’s preparing meal after meal that gets ruined due to interruptions and more drama, everyone is drinking gin by the bucketload, she has no idea about her daughter’s future and she discovers something about her own husband.

I really enjoyed this. I found it built the tension incredibly well and I had quite a few moments where I would find my heart racing as things closed in on Neve. I didn’t guess the killer, nor their motivation – not exactly unusual for me but it’s still I find, quite nice when things unfold as a surprise.


Book #158 of 2019

One response to “Review: The Lying Room by Nicci French

  1. We share the same opinion on this one, great review!

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