Welcome to the nbmagazine.co.uk stop on the blog tour for A Place to Lie by Rebecca Griffiths!

Here’s a little info about the book:

In Summer 1990, Caroline and Joanna are sent to stay with their great aunt, Dora, to spend their holidays in a sunlit village near the Forest of Dean. The countryside is a welcome change from the trauma they know back home in the city; a chance to make the world a joyful playground again. But in the shadowy woods at the edge of the forest hide secrets that will bring their innocence to a distressing end and make this a summer they will never forget.

Years later, a shocking act of violence sends Joanna back to Witchwood. In her great aunt’s lonely and dilapidating cottage, she will attempt to unearth the secrets of that terrifying summer and come to terms with the haunting effects it has left on her life. But in her quest to find answers, who can she trust? And will she be able to survive the impending danger from those trying to bury the truth?

And about author Rebecca Griffiths:

Rebecca Griffiths grew up in rural mid-Wales and went on to gain a first class honours degree in English Literature. After a successful business career in London, Dublin and Scotland, she returned to mid-Wales where she now lives with her husband, a prolific artist, their three vampiric cats as black as night, and pet sheep the size of sofas.

And here’s Paul Burke’s review of A Place to Lie:

We soon discover that nothing is quite what it seems in A Place to Lie, events that happen in plain sight often have an opaque meaning, appearances are deceptive and people are never straightforward. Nothing is black and white in this slightly creepy tale, a classic story told with a contemporary flair. This novel is a snug fit for a readers’ group into psychological mysteries with an extra twist, there’s certainly plenty to talk about here. Equally, the novel is a perfect beach read for fans of the domestic noir sub-genre.

This is Rebecca Griffiths’ second novel, another stand alone, but readers of her debut, The Primrose Path, will recognise some of the same themes being explored here. In A Place to Lie everything that happens stems from a trip two sisters made to the Forest of Dean in 1990, nearly three decades ago. It should have been an idyllic summer for Caroline and Joanna, a wonderful rural getaway from their tense home life with their mother, who has ‘issues’. Given the glorious weather it was the perfect summer for a childhood holiday, a chance to make new friends, but there was something brewing before they arrived. The girls happiness is brief because a tragic event throws a pall over the whole community. Yet, the general perception of what happened isn’t the full story and wounds fester over the years. Eventually secrets will out but not before the tragedy impacts has terrible repercussions in the present. A Place to Lie is a slow burn, that’s because the complex story relies on understanding the psychology of the characters not just following the action. Overall, it’s a tense and atmospheric piece of storytelling.

Present day: A woman leaves her house, she’s nervous, upset, she’s thinks she’s in trouble, she carries a knife for protection (she knows he’s out there, the telephone calls, the heavy breathing, it’s psychological torture!). Is she paranoid? Delusional? The headaches won’t stop. Or, is he real? Has ‘he’ tracked her to Bayswater? She enters her local mini-mart and there he is, he crept up on her, she grabs the hilt of the knife in her bag.

“His face presses close to hers – a face she remembers from childhood – there isn’t the time to scream. She whips her head in alarm and is momentary blinded by the too-bright strip lights as terror rumbles: a thunderstorm on her periphery.”
She scuffles with the young man, she falls, she feels the wet warmth in her side, she slips into unconsciousness . . .

Very early the next morning when the doorbell gets Joanna out of bed. She is better known as Joanna Jameson concert pianist, but the policemen at the door uses her married name, Joanna Peters – it must be personal. She thinks of her husband Mike in New York but one of the policemen says it’s not him, it’s Caroline, her sister. Caroline was attacked by a young man, she’s dead. Joanna isn’t up to identifying Carrie’s body, it’ll have to wait for Mike to come back, she calls him.

1990: The girls, Caroline, the elder by four years, and Joanna, have been sent to great aunt Dora at Pillowell cottage, Witchwood, Forest of Dean. Their mother, Imogen, is “ill”. They arrive as the funeral of Derek Hooper brings the community together. At the church Caroline is inquisitive, she wants to know who all the people are, her aunt quiets her but at the wake they are introduced around. Liz and Ian Fry run the local pub, the girls make friends with their daughter Ellie and the son Dean seems to take a shine to Caroline. Gordon Hooper has returned from Italy for his father’s funeral, not everyone thinks it’s appropriate that he plays with the children at the wake. The girls begin to settle in. Later, tragedy strikes and by the end of the summer everything has changed for the village but most of all for Caroline. Then over the years the sisters become estranged.

Present day: Joanna hadn’t seen Caroline for ten years, not since auntie Dora’s funeral, Caroline had become very ‘difficult’. DS Pike tells them they had to let her assailant twenty-seven-year-old Kyle Norris go, witnesses and the CCTV show that Caroline took the knife from her handbag and that Norris was the victim, he was simply defending himself. Jo and Mike accept this very quickly, Caroline’s behaviour has always been an enigma. Jo wants her family life to get back to normal. However, at Caroline’s funeral old Mrs Hooper invites Jo back to Witchwood, her aunt is long dead, but Pillowell cottage is now hers. As Joanna uncovers the past she begins to realise that Caroline’s behaviour might be more explicable than she realised . . .

This domestic noir manipulates readers expectations of events and characters, the beautiful setting is a congrats to the darkness in the story. Readers are tantalised by the prospect of the revelations behind the dark events of the baking hot summer in the Forest of Dean. I like the way Griffiths plays with guilt and innocence in her characters. There are twists and turns and a final chilly kicker that you might see coming but nonetheless hits home.

A Place to Lie is well paced and plotted, the characters are complex and rounded. The story unfolds over two well balanced timelines, and there are a few red herrings along the way, to spice things up. If you like this novel Griffith’s previous book, The Primrose Path, will be right up your street. Sarah D’Villez was kidnapped as a child and held for eleven days, seventeen years later the man who took her is being released from prison. Sarah decides to hide herself away in rural Wales under a new identity but someone is watching her.

Paul Burke 3/4

A Place to Lie by Rebecca Griffiths
Sphere 9780751562019 pbk Aug 2019