The Lying Room by Nicci French

Lying Room


Simon and Schuster UK|3 October 2019|432 pages|e-book |Review copy|3.5*

Book Beginnings on Friday

How to participate: Share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading. Book Beginnings is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages every Friday.

I’m in the middle of reading The Safe House by Nicci French. It begins:

The door was the first thing. The door was open. The front door was never open, even in the wonderful heat of the previous summer that had been so like home, but there it was teetering inwards, on a morning so cold that the moisture hanging in the air stung Mrs Ferrer’s pocked cheeks. She pushed her gloved hand against the white painted surface, testing the evidence of her eyes.

‘Mrs Mackenzie?’

Silence. Mrs Ferrer raised her voice and called for her employer once more and felt embarrassed as the words echoed, high and wavering, in the large hallway. She stepped inside and wiped her feet on the mat too many times, as she always did. she removed her gloves and clutched them in her left hand. there was a smell now. It was heavy and sweet. It reminded her of something. the smell of a barnyard. No, inside. A barn maybe.

These paragraphs drew me into this mystery/psychological thriller and I wanted to know why the door was open and the source of the barnyard smell. There’s not long to wait because that becomes clear on the next page. After a dramatic opening the book settles down to a more leisurely pace, but slowly building up the tension.

I am wondering just how safe the Safe House of the title really is.

Catching Up with Reviews

Some of January’s books – two quick reviews:

Be Near Me by Andrew O’Hagan is a beautifully written and moving book about David, a parish priest in a small Scottish parish and as I read it I gradually became aware of just how naive he is. The prologue foreshadows the problems he encounters when his mother comments that he has been through such a lot and that in her experience “nothing is ever behind anyone.” He tells her that he is looking forward to

Just working in an ordinary parish and greeting the faith of ordinary people.

What follows is a troubling story of what happened and what he did in that ordinary parish full of ordinary people. It’s a very sad and nasty tale, about prejudice, religious bigotry and it’s full of regret and despair.

Information about Andrew O’Hagan is here. I would like to read his earlier books, maybe The Missing, which is part autobiography and part looking at what happens to communities when people go missing.

That, quite coincidentally brings me on to another book I read in January:

Losing You by Nicci French is a fast paced, take-your-breath-away book about Nina whose teenage daughter, Charlie goes missing. I read it a break-neck speed, switching between being completely engrossed and desperate for her to find her daughter before it’s too late and being annoyed by her attitude to the police.

It’s set on Sandling Island, off the east coast of England and the feelings of isolation and oppression fill the book. Nina is a newcomer to the island and is not really accepted as “one of us”. She struggles to get people, friends, neighbours and the police to take Charlie’s disappearance as anything serious. It’s the portrayal of the police as inept, inefficient and casual that bugged me – would that really be the case? Anyway, even if some of it was barely believable it is a real page-turner and I will be reading more of Nikki French’s books.

‘Nicci French’ is the pseudonym of wife and husband Nicci Gerard and Sean French. More information is on this website and they have a blog.