Annie Ward mixes together a lethal cocktail of prescription drugs and alcohol with all the suspicion, gossip and lies circulating among the pushy soccer moms, its charismatic sports coach, and staff at an elite private school in the Colorado mountains to great effect in The Lying Club.
At an elite private school nestled in the Colorado mountains, a tangled web of lies draws together three vastly different women. Natalie, a young office assistant, dreams of having a life like the school moms she deals with every day. Women like Brooke – a gorgeous heiress, ferociously loving mother and serial cheater – and Asha, an overachieving and overprotective mom who suspects her husband of having an affair.
Their fates are bound by their relationships with the handsome, charming assistant athletic director Nicholas, who Natalie loves, Brooke wants and Asha needs. But when two bodies are carried out of the school early one morning, it seems the jealousy between mothers and daughters, rival lovers and the haves and have-nots has shattered the surface of this isolated, affluent town – a town where people will stop at nothing to get what they want.
Initiation into The Lying Club is swift and immediate: Annie Ward gives her reader no time to acclimatise to the rarefied mountain air or the reek of money and privilege which surrounds Falcon Academy, the elite school at the centre of the action. The book opens with Natalie, a young office assistant at the school, waking up in her car only to discover she’s at a crime scene. The situation further deteriorates when she decides to lie about what she was doing there.
Perhaps unsurprisingly in a novel called The Lying Club, Natalie is not the only character with something to hide or protect. While we mainly see events from her admittedly less than reliable perspective, we also hear from two of the soccer moms, Asha and Brooke, who’ve both enrolled their daughters for additional soccer training, which is designed to help with upcoming college admissions. Of these three, I found it easier to like and sympathise with Natalie and Asha initially, although Brooke has her moments and I became more interested in her character as the novel progressed.
I enjoyed seeing Natalie spend time at her brother’s and this, together with his opinion on unfolding events, acted as a good counter-balance to her more erratic behaviour before we learn what’s behind it. I also thought the mother-daughter relationships (Asha-Mia and Brooke-Sloane) gave the book an added dimension, as did the mothers having to deal with each other because their daughters went to the same school and not because they were friends, and the girls likewise being pitched against each other by virtue of being in the same soccer programme at school and applying for college at the same time. It was interesting to see how these relationships played out over the course of the book and how they contrasted with those of other mothers and their children portrayed in The Lying Club.
When characters aren’t vying for the charismatic coach’s attention or self-medicating with drugs or alcohol (or both), they’re being manipulative or secretive, all while speculating about the movement, motivation or intent of others. What we witness here certainly isn’t pretty and it’s only exacerbated by that perfect storm of (often competitive) parenting, money, and the pressures of the US college application process. There are dark and sinister motives at play which force you to reevaluate everyone’s role in events and how you feel about them, once it all unfolds. I loved how Annie Ward makes use of the police interviews and press reports she includes in The Lying Club, especially when they deliver a killer line which makes you shout out loud.
Annie Ward weaves an intriguing web of suspicion, doubt and intrigue around the characters in The Lying Club: she runs knotty threads of connection like some complex cat’s cradle, in which the reader quickly becomes entangled, not knowing who to trust and wary about what they need to focus on, who the real victims are, and what is merely designed to distract us. It was immensely satisfying to see how it all unravelled.
The Lying Club by Annie Ward is published by Quercus and is available as an audiobook, ebook and in hardback with the paperback due out next year. You can find it at Amazon UK (affiliate link), Bookshop.org (affiliate link), Hive and Waterstones. You can find the author at her Author Website or her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram or over on Twitter.
My thanks to Joe Christie at Quercus for sending me a review copy.
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