Anna is a mother to two children, a wife to Dominic and headteacher of a primary school. She is also an excellent liar, leading a double life, her dark persona so far removed from the one her safe world sees that the two can never collide. One stupid mistake gave rise to the dark Anna. It’s a mistake she pays for, every day of her perfect-Anna life.
Scott knows about her past. But she watched him die 14 years ago. So how can Scott be alive, taunting her on the radio, feeding snippets of information that only he would know?
Soon, DCI Tom Douglas is going to knock on her door looking for answers. But Anna is already running scared. Scott is on a killing spree, and she knows he is coming for her.
She has one week to find him. One week to stop Scott from tearing apart her fragile web of lies.
There is no better way to escape being a passenger on a long, tedious journey than a good psychological thriller, where the author’s quality of writing immerses the reader in action, emotion and incessant conflict. Rachel Abbott certainly achieved this with me.
The Shape of Lies is written in the first-person present tense for the chapters that revolve around Anna today and the past tense for her earlier life. The perspective of DCI Tom Douglas is written in the third person past tense. I was actually surprised to learn this is the eighth book in the DCI Tom Douglas series; for a protagonist, his presence is secondary to Anna’s. And although his out-of-work story is developed and relatively interesting, this is much more a book about Anna.
Anna is a hypocrite. She is more than flawed; she is barely likeable. But many aspects of her are identifiable, starting with her first thoughts – that we all lie. This and her identifiable flaw of making mistakes goes a long way to keeping the reader hooked, even if we wouldn’t want her anywhere near the school our own children went to.
But the main reason this book works is that in every scene there is unremitting conflict. Whatever Tom or Anna wants, there is an obstacle blocking them. Behind it, there’s another one. And another. These may come as emotional conflicts or tangible ones. But they keep on coming.
Dominic is remarkably underwhelming, and for much of the story it feels as if he is only there to develop Anna’s character. Scott and Anna’s other antagonists are truly despicable. The pleasant people, few and far between, are somewhat flat in their amiability.
I am sure there will be many readers who question Anna’s naivety as a university student. I did too. But life and literature are awash with victims of abusive relationships, and I respect the author’s understanding of this.
There is a fair amount of repetition, which dilutes the suspense rather than increasing it. And it didn’t take long to work out Anna’s dark secret or who the killer was. But this did not take away particularly from an enthralling read and an excellent few hours of pure escapism.