Tell Me No Lies by Lisa Hall
Rating: 4 stars
Lisa Hall blew me away last year with her debut novel 'Between Me and You', it was quite simply one of those books that never leaves you because it made you question your preconceived judgements and caused you to stop and ask yourself how you could have missed that twist the whole way through the book. I literally couldn't wait to read Tell Me No Lies and I had huge expectations of it because of my enjoyment of Lisa's first novel.
This book begins with Steph and her husband Mark moving into their new home in London with their little boy Henry. We are aware that there are issues with their marriage and that the move constitutes a new start for them all. Steph is pregnant with their second child and it quickly becomes apparent that she was unwell with severe post-natal depression after the birth of Henry and is worried that the same problems may occur this time around. Mark is a television producer who works away from home for much of the time and so Steph finds herself settling into their new home and neighbourhood almost entirely alone and she soon begins receiving strange gifts left on the porch of their new home which begin to remind her of incidents in her past. She's scared and unsettled and with no one to turn to.
Steph begins to make friends with Laurence, the attractive and enigmatic man across the street and also with Lila her next door neighbour. Both become Steph's people to lean on when Mark isn't at home and their friendships grow quickly and soon she is relying on them more and more. The strange things are still happening and now as well as gifts left on her doorstep she finds things going missing and a sensation that someone has been in her home. She confides in Lila more and more and begins to accept more and more help from the neighbour next door whilst she withdraws from Laurence after she finds her attraction to him growing. Steph finds herself becoming more and more paranoid, confused and suspicious of people. Event from her past are resurfacing and suddenly the psychiatrist she's been seeing is making her feel crazy as he dismises her fears.
This book was a little of a slow starter but when I got into it I found the chapters slipping away as I became more and more pulled into the strange things that were happening to Steph and as I tried to find out who was responsible. I was fairly sure that all the coincidences could be easily explained and to be honest I do not think that Lisa Hall was trying to create a mystery where we couldn't guess from fairly early on who was responsible. Instead the focus was on the increasing instability that was created in the psyche of Steph as the incidents became more severe and as people began to question her sanity and truthfulness.
Steph is a really likeable lead character, she is open and friendly, she's trying her best to settle in a new place and is trying to raise her child almost single handedly. You want to root for her, you want people to take her seriously because you are seeing things from her perspective and so you know she's being geniune and this isn't just something in her head.
Where I struggled more was the character of her husband Mark who from my perspective wasn't the most supportive spouse. He is revealed at the start of the book as having recently been adulterous in the marriage and so explains the reason for why the family have moved home and despite promising his wife a new start he's soon off for work again to the far reaches of the world leaving his pregnant and fragile wife behind. He is literally missing for much of the book, leaving Steph to pick up all the slack and when she does confide in him about what's happening he is suspicious of her and intead of supporting her refers her back to her therapist. He literally refuses to believe his wife and whilst there is no conrete proof that doesn't mean that he didn't drive me crazy. He should have surely when things reached the extremes at the end of the book have been questioning whether perhap all the very extreme things could be linked to more than just his wife's potential psychosis.
My only other real gripe with the book was I literally finished the last chapter and turned the page expecting more and there was literally nothing.......I mean it was so unlikely a place to end I just couldn't imagine there wasn't another chapter or two. It had pulled me in so much that I wanted a resolution, I wanted more. I wanted justice and instead it leaves us screaming at the utter emptiness. I was worried, I am still thinking about the way that everything is left in the air. I couldn't fathom how we could have come to the end with 2 people knowing exactly what was happening and yet still the other side won. This shouldn't happen surely?
There was never going to be any following 'Between You and Me' for sheer shock and awe endings, that book was one of the few I've ever read which made that happen and maybe people who were wishing the author would achieve the same again had set their expectations unrealistically. I found this to be a very well written novel, it's characters were indelibly human and therefore open to flaws and acts of deception and extreme dishonesty and cruelty. I also find it a little bit of a compliment that I got to the end and was still craving more, sometimes with novels you get to the end and are counting chapters because sometimes it's all being dragged out just a little too long whereas here I could have easily read several more.
I would recommend this novel, however if you have read Between You And Me just prepare yourself that the format and ending is not as earth shattering.