A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
When a Twist isn’t a Twist
Lie With Me, by Sabine Durrant
(warning: spoiler alert!)
Since having my identical twin girls, I’ve returned to those nocturnal feeding schedules and fuzzy-brained states of semi-consciousness that no classic work of literature will penetrate. I realised that to keep myself awake, I needed thrillers. A good dose of Gone Girl, Girl on the Train and similar got me through countless 3ams and I am grateful for those page-turners. But if there’s one book that I’d change, it’s the popular ‘Lie With Me’, by Sabine Durrant.
One blissful hour during an afternoon naptime, I started this absorbing novel. It is centred around Paul, a self-centred womaniser who enjoys chasing younger women without thought to the consequences. When he bumps into an old acquaintance who promptly invites him over for a dinner party, and meets a women who simultaneously seems closed off and who coyly flirts with him, I did wonder if it wasn’t all a little too set up. There is much reference to Paul’s past drunken behaviour on holiday, and disgust is implied. Strange, then, that everyone seems so happy to welcome him back. This aloof woman, Alice, does not seem like a character who would be taken in by Paul’s charms, nevertheless we see a relationship form as I furrow my brow and wonder if she really is a good egg.
The theme of the book is lies, and we see Paul tell a great many. Small lies knit together and snowball into situations he finds difficult to wriggle out of. When the group find themselves back on holiday in Greece, the scene of a girl’s disappearance on the date they were last all on the island, the reader knows we are building to a crescendo and the mystery will be solved. Much is made of Paul’s drunken blackouts, and his leery behaviour towards the accompanying teenage girls, yet all the way through I was left questioning Alice. Why on earth is she with him? Why does she behave so coolly with him one minute, and flirtatiously the next, if she wasn’t up to something?
And this is the problem. The ‘killer twist’ I was promised by many a reviewer was clearly signposted. Paul is painted as a dislikeable but very familiar and harmless character, whereas Alice is always a mystery. We can’t help but know from the first few pages that Paul is being set up.
And so, Alice has cleverly created a motive and a very convenient collection of material proof to frame him for the missing girls’ murder, whilst getting away with being the real killer. But what would happen if these twists, which so many authors are in such a rage to create, didn’t happen? Wouldn’t it be much more of a ‘twist’ if, well, there wasn’t one? If Paul was to come to his senses and remember how a drunken fumble led to a killing, if the reader was to unravel his awful realisation alongside him, they might feel a mounting sense of excitement. Would he make a getaway? Hand himself in? and what of poor, trusting Alice?
It puts me in mind of the same idea used in Girl on a Train when an alcoholic has to piece together what happened when a young woman was murdered whilst she was drunk. The blackout is a prop that might be used another way.
The popularity of this book suggests I’m in a minority – the ending is neatly sewn up and we see an imprisoned Paul reflect on his past behaviour. But sometimes I think the most surprising endings can be the most straightforward ones.
Bethany Straker is an illustrator and designer working in Kent and London. She is currently working on 6 picture books for Skyhorse publishing and currently has a book out written by Isabel Atherton, called ‘Zombie Cat: The Tale of a Decomposing Kitty’. Her new books include a book she wrote called ‘The Funny Bunny Fly’, ‘A Curious Robot on Mars!’ written by James Duffett-Smith and ‘Smelly Ghost’ by Isabel Atherton. Previously, Bethany has illustrated for magazines for Disney, CMP Information, Bliss magazine, the National Magazine Company and GoGo’s Crazy Bones. Continue reading…