“Is she the next victim? Or is she the culprit…?
Alex South is a high-functioning alcoholic, teetering on the brink of oblivion. Her career as a television journalist is hanging by a thread since a drunken on-air rant. But when a series of murders occurs within a couple of miles of her East London home, she’s given another chance to prove herself.
Alex thinks she can control the drinking, but soon she finds gaping holes in her memory, and wakes to find she’s done things she can’t recall. As the story she’s covering starts to creep into her own life, is Alex a danger only to herself – or to others?”
This book has me really torn about my reaction to it. In some ways it was great, very topical and thought-provoking and different to a lot of psychological thrillers I have read recently. In other ways it was really frustrating and a couple of things about it have left me downright furious.
This is the story of Alex, a journalist and high-functioning alcoholic whose drinking has torn both her personal and professional life apart. When a series of murders take place close to her home, she sees a way of redeeming her career, but cannot get control of her alcoholism. The book is told mainly from the first person viewpoint of Alex, as she reports on the story, and also through a series of diary entries of a third person, who we gradually find out more about as the book unfolds, which is an interesting set up and works reasonably well.
There are lots of aspects of this book I enjoyed. The writer sets the scene well, and the small area of London where the murders take place is made to feel claustrophobic and menacing, so we can understand how such awful crimes happening in a normally pleasant area can have an affect on a whole community. The character of Alex is well established, although she is not at all sympathetic, being selfish and unaware, but this is important to the plot development and does not detract from your investment in the story. Her need for alcohol overrides everything and the author very clearly demonstrates how alcoholism controls a person’s life, decisions and personality to the exclusion of everything and everyone else to the extent they will lie and deceive to get it and to hide their drinking. In the end, the constant quest for alcohol becomes pervasive to the extent that it is annoyingly repetitive, but I guess this is reflective of the reality for people living with this issue. The author does not pull any punches as to the character’s behaviour and parts of the book make uncomfortable reading.
I enjoyed the insight into the way new stories are put together, and the urgency of that gave the book a real dynamism which kept me turning the pages. The murder story involves the use of social media, not only as a way for the killer potentially to find victims via dating apps, but also as a way for the news team to track updates in the story which I thought was fascinating. It is amazing to me how the rise of social media has changed the dynamic of how we receive information so drastically that news channels are now playing catch up, instead of being the leading method of us gaining information on big stories and it is great to see this being reflected in current fiction.
On to the less positive side, parts of the book were repetitive, particularly the constant retelling of how her life is imploding. I understand that the author is trying to emphasise the cycle that alcoholics constantly go through by I wish she had mixed up how it was presented a little more. This book is advertised as ‘a gripping thriller with a twist you won’t see coming’. Unfortunately, I did see it coming long before the end and I think this was partly due to the strapline on the cover which is ill thought out in my opinion. The ending, and the explanation of some of the issues that had been brought up felt rushed to me, done as they were in a few pages of diary entry at the end.
The main problem, and the one that had me screaming in frustration at the book came in the final pages and, if I hadn’t been reading it on my Kindle, I think I would have thrown it. In a single sentence in the final chapter of the book, the author chooses to completely reverse a basic and central tenet of English criminal law to suit her story. This is unacceptable and had me totally enraged. There can be only two reasons she did this. Either, firstly, it is a mistake and she has simply not bothered to research the point of law involved. I find this hard to believe because a) it is such a basic premise that most lay people will know it and b) the author is a BBC journalist of long-standing. Alternatively, she does know it’s wrong but has decided that it doesn’t matter because her readers either won’t know or won’t care. I find this insulting to me as a reader and it completely ruined the book for me at the end. Maybe that is just me being a pedant but, for a crime writer to decide to re-write English law to suit her preferred story ending is just lazy. We’re not talking about a small licence in detail here and it really bugged me.
Due to my mixed reaction to this book, I can’t say whether I would recommend it or not. It has a lot going for it but it could have been so much better. Ultimately, my over-riding feeling was one of frustration.
I Never Lie is out today and you can buy a copy here.
Thank you to NetGalley and Canelo for my copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
About the Author
Jody Sabral is based between the South Coast and London, where she works as a Foreign Desk editor and video producer at the BBC. She is a graduate of the MA in Crime Fiction at City University, London. Jody worked as a journalist in Turkey for ten years, covering the region for various international broadcasters. She self-published her first book Changing Borders in 2012 and won the CWA Debut Dagger in 2014 for her second novel The Movement. In addition to working for the BBC, Jody also writes for the Huffington Post, Al–Monitor and Brics Post.
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