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Author of the Month

Name: Sabine Durrant

First Novel: Under Your Skin

Most Recent Book: Lie With Me

'I couldn’t put this stunning book down until the final page had been consumed.'

Synopsis:
Paul Morris is down on his luck. He’s a middle-aged writer who has never been able to recreate the success of his first novel. A chance encounter with an old friend, Andrew, presents an opportunity Paul can’t resist in the form of wealthy widow Alice. With her big home in London and her holiday house on a Greek island, Alice leads the sort of life Paul’s always dreamed of.

Desperate to impress, Paul lies about himself, embellishing his life story for the benefit of Alice and her rich friends. But one lie leads to another and before long Paul is caught up in a web of deceit that – somehow – leads back to the disappearance of a young girl some years earlier...

Review:
I have read Sabine Durrant’s previous crime novels and I thoroughly enjoyed them so I was really looking forward to ‘Lie With Me’. I certainly wasn’t disappointed. I absolutely loved this book and, for me, it is Durrant’s strongest novel yet.

There are many things that make ‘Lie With Me’ such a good novel: it’s very well written, the plot is tight with a shocking and unexpected twist in the tale and the characters are all well-drawn. By far and above the best thing about it, however, is the central character Paul Morris.

Paul is a wonderful creation. He is a down-on-his-luck author who has never got over the fact he isn’t the hugely successful, best-selling author he clearly thinks he should be. He is a liar, a thief and a womaniser. He is vain and selfish and self-centred. He is truly appalling and absolutely brilliant at the same time. I loved him! Despite his many flaws, I was rooting for him from the beginning (and I still am).

Desperate to impress Alice, Paul lies about himself – little lies that don’t seem that important at first. And the lies work. It’s not long before Paul is joining Alice and her friends on their annual holiday to Pyros, a Greek island where Alice owns a second home. At first, Pyros seems like the Mediterranean idyll Paul imagined it to be. Very soon, however, Durrant makes the holiday take a darker turn.

Paul isn’t the only one who was in Pyros the night the girl, Jasmine disappeared all those years ago. Andrew, Alice and all the people he’s on holiday with were there too. As the anniversary of Jasmine’s disappearance draws closer, it starts to feel as if there’s more than just coincidence that’s brought them all back to the same place again. It is these little lies and uncertainties that Durrant tweaks so perfectly which directs her reader in to so many different directions at the same time.

‘Lie With Me’ is an original, intriguing and very clever novel about the lies people tell and the trouble that can lead to. I couldn’t put this stunning book down until the final page had been consumed.

Reviewed by: S.B.

CrimeSquad Rating



Questionnaire

1) This is a novel about the lies people tell and the consequences of those lies. Without giving too much away, it gradually becomes clear that Paul isn’t the only person telling lies. It made me think about how honest people really are with each other. What are your thoughts on the different ways we lie to ourselves and others?
Everyone lies - all the time, in all sorts of different ways. “I would say we’re lying constantly. Constantly," says Maurice Schweitzer, who studies deception at the University of Pennsylvania. Obviously we all tell white lies - which act as social lubrication and are really just a form of politeness (no, of course your bum doesn’t look big in that). And there are lies we tell to ourselves to feel better about things, including confirmation bias when we wiggle out “truths” from complicated situations, ignoring facts that don’t fit what we already want to believe. But there are other more dangerous lies, fuelled by self-interest, and that’s what fascinated me when I was writing this book. You see it occasionally - increasingly maybe - in public figures or you sense it in that prickle up your back, or a surge of fight or flight, when you meet someone for the first time whom for some reason you don’t trust. It’s a form of lying which in the perpetrator seems to have unshackled themselves from any kind of morality, are motivated purely by ego and personal gain. Unleashed, that capacity to lie can be incredibly dangerous.
2) Paul Morris, the protagonist, is a wonderful character. He is a liar, a thief and a misogynist. I loved him! What was the inspiration for Paul and how did you manage to make me root for him the whole way through the book despite his many flaws?
I’m glad you rooted for him, and I loved being inside his brain. It was oddly liberating. I know he is awful in many ways, but I wanted him to have a sense of humour, and to reveal moments of self-deprecation. It was hard keeping the right balance. I worked in newspapers in the 1980s and 1990s and there were quite a few charismatic, charming, clever, misogynistic men in the mix in those days. I wouldn’t have said any of them were dishonest, but a couple certainly came to mind when I was writing the book...
3) The central plot is around the disappearance of a teenage girl in Greece several years’ earlier. Were there any real-life inspirations for this story?
It was hard not to think of Ben Needham, though he was only one year old when he went missing on the Greek island of Kos. And I suppose Madeleine McCann also hangs over any story of a lost child, particularly the public’s reaction to her disappearance and the role of her parents. But I was also influenced by a book Andrew O’Hagan wrote in 1995 called ‘The Missing’, which was part memoir, part investigation into “mispers”, the hordes of children and young people who had disappeared in Britain over the previous four decades, runaways, and amnesiacs, or the untold victims of crime. It was about limbo and lost lives, about the ghostly spaces these children left behind. I still think about the father who leaves the light on in his daughter’s room at night, the mother who regularly irons and refolds her son’s shirts.
4) You write about location very well. I have never heard of Pyros (the Greek island where much of the novel is set) but you bring it vividly to life. Why did you choose this location for your story?
Pyros is a fictional island - I imagine it lying somewhere between Corfu and Kefalonia, large and hulking, with a mountainous interior and a coastline of sharp cliffs, and small inlets: the kind of landscape where a body could, in theory, lie undiscovered for years. I wanted a location that would contrast with Paul’s daily life in London - the rain, the hammering of CrossRail - and I wanted somewhere blindingly hot. It seemed important that the characters should shed their clothes - partly of course so Paul could ogle the young girls in the house, but also as a metaphor as the lies are stripped away and the truth is gradually laid bare.
5) The plot is very clever, with a real twist in the tale. I wonder which came first - the plot or Paul’s character? Or was it some combination of both?
It’s hard to answer that one without giving too much away. You’re right, though, it was definitely a combination of both - a certain element in Paul’s character that I felt was ripe for a twist, and the basic notion of the arc of the story. The details and most of the other characters came later.
6) You’ve written several books for teenagers as well as your adult fiction. What made you decide to move from YA to adult fiction?
In fact the YA was a small diversion in the course of writing novels for adults. I wrote two “grown up” books – ‘Having it and Eating It’, and ‘The Great Indoors’ - and then I was commissioned by Puffin to write the Connie Pickles series. I was in the throes of bringing up a family and I thought the YA would be a bit of a break, but that was arrogant and misguided of me as they were just as challenging to write, if not more so. Young people are incredibly astute and I was writing for 12-14 year olds which is a tricky remit as a 12 year old can be a very different being to a 14 year old - it was a challenge to write in a way that would appeal to both.
7) For writers who are just starting out on their ‘novel journey’, what one piece of advice would you give?
Keep going. Write every day. Don’t give up. (That’s one piece of advice even if it sounds like three.) I have a novel in a file entitled “Bottom Drawer” on my laptop which will never see the light of day. It wasn’t my first attempt - the previous four books had all been published - and I put more work into it than anything I’ve ever written. But I couldn’t get it to come together. It was painful giving up on it, but it was the best move I ever did. I wrote the next book, ‘Under Your Skin’, in four months and I haven’t looked back.
8) Are you a fan of crime fiction in general? What would you say are the top three crime novels that have made a lasting impression on you and would take with you to a desert island?
Yes I am a huge fan. I have always read crime (or detective novels, as we used to call them). As a schoolgirl, I went straight from Enid Blyton’s Famous Five to Agatha Christie. Top three novels? That’s a tough one. The three books that come straight to mind - which is a test of sorts of the impression they have left - are:

1) Scott Turow’s ‘Presumed Innocent’, not just for its brilliant and convoluted plot, but for its most shockingly delicious twist.

2) Patricia Highsmith’s ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’. A portrait of the ultimate anti-hero Complex, morally confusing and compelling. The original and the best.

3) ’In Cold Blood’, Truman Capote’s ‘non-fiction novel’, written in collaboration with Harper Lee: an extraordinarily eloquent and psychologically rich dissection of a quadruple murder, the victims and the perpetrators, the causes and repercussions.