Author: Sabine Durrant
Publication date: 26 Jul 2016
Page count: 352
Imprint: Mulholland Books
Source: Hachette Australia
A rich widow. A Greek island paradise. A missing teenage girl…the past comes back to haunt a group of carefree holidaymakers in the new, brilliantly tense psychological thriller
by Sabine Durrant.
“The truth is, we all tell lies… take a deep breath and get ready for the most twisty, tense and unsettling book of the summer.
It starts with a lie. The kind we’ve all told – to a former acquaintance we can’t quite place but still, for some reason, feel the need to impress. The story of our life, embellished for the benefit of the happily married lawyer with the kids and the lovely home.
And the next thing you know, you’re having dinner at their house, and accepting an invitation to join them on holiday – swept up in their perfect life, the kind you always dreamed of…
Which turns out to be less than perfect. But by the time you’re trapped and sweating in the relentless Greek sun, burning to escape the tension all around you – by the time you start to realise that, however painful the truth might be, it’s the lies that cause the real damage…
… well, by then, it could just be too late.”
This is one of the most intriguing, surprising and unusual tales that I have read in a long, long time; there is no hero, no obvious crime and there are no clearly identified goodies or baddies. Yet the prologue makes it clear that something very, very bad has happened.
The narrator, Paul Morris lives his life with the arrogance and vulgarity of a Hoorah Henry who has never grown up. Despite his humble beginnings, winning a bursary to an elite school and then a Cambridge education allowed him to mix with the more privileged, the icing on his social climbing cake was his best selling book published during his final year at Cambridge. He once lived the high life, but, not able to repeat his literary success, he maintains the illusion of being a prospering man about town with the help of smoke and mirrors – he tells lies.
He beguiles people with superficial charm, he lies outrageously to fulfil his huge sense of entitlement. He lives off the handouts of others as much as possible and, such is his conceit, he fails to see that his 42 year old self is no longer attractive to those young girls he continues to pursue.
House sitting for a friend had given him a prestigious address but now even that is coming to an end, the owner was coming home. Paul is faced with the (to him) demeaning prospect of having to go and live with his mother in her very humble home.
He bumps into a fellow Cambridge student, Andrew, who invites him to dinner. Paul accepts, he attends the dinner party and meets Alice. Alice is a middle aged widow with teenaged children and, according to her friends, she is something of a saint. She is a lawyer working on behalf of the underprivileged, she seems to do good everywhere, she even heads the ten year campaign to find out what has happened to Jasmine, a girl who disappeared on the island of Pyros whilst Alice and her friends were staying there in her holiday home.
Alice has reminded Paul that they had met before, on Pyros, the night that Jasmine went missing. Pauls’ memory of that night are hazy and vague because he was so drunk. He becomes interested in pursuing Alice when he discovers that Phoebe, her teenaged daughter, is soon to leave home. Paul decides to manipulate Alice in to allowing him to eventually move in to her house.
He manages to inveigle Alice in to a relationship and has no scruples about taking advantage of her home and her largesse, all the while concealing from her the truth of his impoverished life and failed career.
Paul manages to get himself included on the annual Pyros holiday along with Andrew and his family, but he can’t afford the same flight, a fact his pride won’t allow him to admit to Alice and so he pretends to have an important meeting with his publisher to cover for his delayed arrival.
Yes, he is an awful man, selfish and horrible, and yet, now and then the author allows a glimpse of a redeeming factor.
This “pre holiday” part of the book does lag a little, but it is the slow burning fuse before the action. Once they are all together on Pyros the tension builds towards an explosive, shocking and totally unexpected ending, one that you will find yourself thinking about long after putting down the book.
This was a truly satisfying read.
Thanks to Hachette Australia for providing a copy of the book in return for an unbiased review.