A year after Erica Spencer falls to her death from a tree at a Halloween party in the exclusive Cheshire gated community of Severn Oaks, a podcast emerges from nowhere to speculate that rather than a tragic accident, someone amongst her friends and their husbands is guilty of murder. Cheshire has many affluent areas and is known as a place where many a celebrity and premiership footballer opts to live; Severn Oaks is that kind of place and the six are all relatively wealthy, a couple are also famous. So it isn’t long before the press are besieging their neighbourhood, while all the other local families and the parents of other children at their kids’ schools gossip amongst themselves. In short, everyone is listening to the podcast and digesting each and every revelation that comes to pass. Add to that another parent, one who was best friends with Erica, has just gone missing, and it isn’t long before tensions are threatening to tear apart what was once a close-knit friendship group.
Psychological thrillers and domestic noir aren’t normally my chosen genre, I prefer my crime more gritty and noir, but of late I’ve been enjoying a couple of books from this genre. I was attracted to Someone is Lying due to the podcast angle. I listen to quite a few true crime podcasts myself, and lately a number of authors have made use of the phenomenon to great effect, most notably the supernatural chiller writer, Matt Wesolowski. I was hoping for a crime fiction version of that. I would have preferred Jenny Blackhurst, the author of Someone is Lying, to have made greater use of this element of the plot, but instead she chose to focus more on the reaction of the six to the podcast rather than the podcast itself.
As a reader of hard-boiled crime noir, such as the work of James Elroy and Don Winslow, I’m used to reading books where none of the characters are particularly likeable. So that isn’t a problem for me. Which is good, because none of the characters in Someone is Lying are likeable, rather they’re all self-centred, self-obsessed, and narcissistic. Personally, I had a bit of difficulty engaging with this novel, but then I feel I’m not really the target audience. I don’t watch programmes like Real Housewives, and while as a husband and father I’ve spent my time at the school gates talking to other parents, as a man I don’t feel I really ever see the bitchiness and suburban infighting that can occur.
That all said, I can appreciate how well this book is written and how it will appeal to its target audience. Women make up a greater proportion of the reading public than men and there’s a reason domestic noir has boomed so much, because female readers are more likely to relate to the subject matter. Certainly, I could see how some people would lap this book up. Similarly, anyone who watches programmes like Real Housewives, Made in Chelsea, and The Only Way is Essex, will love this novel.
Someone is Lying perfectly encapsulates the thin veneer of civility that lays over affluent suburbia, and the petty rivalries, hatreds, quiet desperation and dissatisfaction, that all too often lie underneath. While I didn’t enjoy this book as much as my usual reads, it’s well written and I reckon it will fly off the shelves.
James Pierson 3/3
Someone is Lying by Jenny Blackhurst
Headline 9781472253699 pbk Nov 2019