I’m an admirer of Barbara Copperthwaite’s books. She effectively combines a strong sense of place with intriguing plots and her latest book, Her Last Secret, continues this tradition. Chief Inspector Paul Ogundele is called to a house on Christmas Day after reports of gunfire and is shocked by a discovery. The narrative then tells the story of events leading up this and the secrets which threaten to overwhelm the family.
Copperthwaite effectively builds up a portrait of an outwardly ordinary family, parents Ben and Dominique and their daughters, Ruby and Mouse. The author explores one of my favourite themes: families and the secrets that they carry around with them. Mouse is the most intriguing of the characters. Bookish and introverted, the family appear at times unaware of her presence. Gradually the true nature of the individual characters are revealed and most, while unsympathetic, are entirely believable.
The dual timeline, the first beginning on the 17th December, interspersed with what the police discover on Christmas Day works extremely well and I found myself turning the pages to discover what caused the carnage. As much a character study as psychological thriller, this is the author’s best book yet and will appeal to fans of Ruth Rendell who miss her unique take on the weirdness within families.
I read a very early draft of The Darkest Lies and it’s always interesting to see what an author does with a manuscript in the revision process. What I remember from reading the earlier draft was the excellent sense of place and the grip of the narrative as the predator in the shadows became apparent. The finished book, published last week by Bookouture, more than realises its potential and it was a gripping read second time around.
Teenager Beth Oak goes missing in a Lincolnshire marshland village, devastating her mother Melanie. When Beth is found unconscious, battered and on the brink of death, Melanie undertakes her own investigations. Villagers, however, aren’t keen to talk and Melanie’s attempt to uncover buried secrets bring her own life into danger.
The Darkest Lies is a creepy read that suitably mirrors the landscape in which it is set. Melanie is in the midst of a nightmare with a dying daughter and surrounded by neighbours that she no longer trusts. She’s forced to consider the actions of Beth and circumstances which encouraged her daughter to keep secrets hidden. The split narrative works particularly well here as we discover from Beth’s viewpoint how easy it is to become unwittingly sucked into danger. The Darkest Lies is a taut psychological thriller which keeps the reader genuinely guessing until the end.