"I might as well be straight with you. You’re not going to like the main character in this book"
I might as well be straight with you. You’re not going to like the main character in this book, Paul Morris. In fact you’re probably going to loathe him, when you’re not consumed with contempt for his lying, manipulative, misogynist ways. You won’t have much time for the bunch of people he sponges off, either; in fact The Catcher in the Rye’s Holden Caulfield would have summed the lot of them up in three words. ‘Big, fat phonies.’
On reflection, maybe that’s all a bit harsh. I suppose Paul does have some redeeming qualities, as do his friends. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start with the plot of Sabine Durrant’s utterly engrossing psychological thriller.
Paul is a one-hit wonder: when he was still at university his first novel was an overnight best-seller. And he’s been living off his one and only success ever since. Now 42, his latest book has been rejected for publication. He’s about to be homeless, after freeloading for years at a friend’s place (which he usually pretends to others is actually his) and things are looking pretty bleak.
But fate steps in when he bumps into an old friend from uni. As usual, Paul paints a rosy picture of his current life, and with his well-worn blend of rogue’s charm and deft bending of the truth, attaches himself, leechlike, to his friend’s friends. It all ends up with an invitation to spend the summer with them in a Greek villa, owned by an attractive widow, Alice. Paul fancies his chances with Alice, as he does with every woman he meets, and heads off happily into the sun.
But things may not be exactly as advertised.
"Give Paul a comb-over, and we could be talking Donald Trump."
Paul’s hand-to-mouth, feckless existence has left him skilled at ‘running’ others. He does it with lies and flattery and so far he has managed to stay one step ahead of his twisted backstory of falsehoods and fantasies.
But once he’s out on the sun-drenched island of Pyros, we begin to wonder who is really ‘running’ who. Is it Paul, doing his usual sponging act? Or is it Alice and her group of extended family and friends? Has Paul been subtly tricked into joining them, and if so, why? What do they want with him? Might he be in actual danger?
Meanwhile it turns out Alice has her own agenda on Pyros. For a start, her holiday home there is about to be demolished: this is a last hurrah in the sun. But she is also involved in the case of a girl who went missing ten years before, working with the parents to solve the case. Local police aren’t too happy about this, but when another girl is raped, they turn their attention on the English party in Alice’s doomed house.
You may, like me, be surprised to end up feeling sorry for Paul as the real world begins to shake his fantasy one like a terrier with a rat.
But not that sorry. He really is an awful man, particularly in his antediluvian attitudes towards women. Give Paul a comb-over, and we could be talking Donald Trump.
Here are a selection of the reviews for Lie With Me
"Brilliantly executed – I loved every page"
"If you’ve had a hole in your literary life since finishing Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, this is the book to fill it"
"Grabs you from the first page and never lets you go. If, like me, you have been longing for a psycho-thriller of genius since you finished Gone Girl, then the wait is finally over."