She Lies In Wait’ by Gytha Lodge ⭐⭐⭐. 5

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Thank you to NetGalley, Penguin UK, Michael Joseph and Gytha Lodge for the chance to read and review this novel.

Get ready for the biggest crime debut of 2019…..

Six friends. One killer. Who do you trust?

“A dark, deep, terrific thriller and scorching portrait of friendship and it’s betrayal” – Nicci French

On a hot July night in 1983, six school friends go camping in the forest.  Bright and brilliant, they are destined for great things, and young Aurora Jackson is dazzled to be allowed to tag along.

Thirty years later a body is discovered.  DCI Sheens is called to the scene, but he already knows what is waiting for him: Aurora Jackson, found at long last.

But that is not all.  The friends have all maintained their innocence, but the body is found in a hideaway only the six of them knew about.

It seems the killer has always lurked very close to home….

Seven teenagers go into the New Forest for a night of camping, drinking, drugs, frolics and fun. In the morning one of them, 14-year-old Aurora Jackson, is missing. After an extensive investigation lasting months it becomes a cold case, her fate remaining a mystery that haunts the small town she lived in and those who knew her. Thirty years later a 10-year-old girl is hiding in the woods when she finds a hole that’s the perfect spot. She feels a branch in her back and pulls it away only to discover it is infact a human finger. Aurora has been found at long last, close by to where she disappeared. DCI Jonah Sheens is called in to investigate. He was new to the Police Force when Aurora vanished and seems haunted by something that happened at that time that he hopes isn’t discovered.  What is he hiding and is it connected to Aurora’s disappearance and death?

As DCI Sheens talks to the others who were there that night they maintain their original claims of innocence despite the fact that only the six of them know about the hideout Aurora’s body was found in.  As he digs deeper cracks appear, one time loyal friends start to turn and long held secrets begin to be revealed.

Along with the original six it seems there was another suspect in the woods that day but lead wasn’t followed up correctly, and the more Jonah looks into it, the more it appears that thirty years ago the police just might have let the killer slip from their grasp. When it’s confirmed that Aurora was in fact murdered the pressure is on to wade through the murky subterfuge and find the truth of what really happened that night.

This debut novel is set in Hampshire’s New Forest, something that immediately endeared it to me as I used to live nearby. I love having a personal connection to a book, whether that be in subject matter or geography, and find that it instantly makes the read more enjoyable. The story was in dual timelines: the present day and the night of July 22nd 1983.  I liked this style of narration as it gave us a glimpse into that night’s events as they occured, but they slowly unfurled so we didn’t know Aurora’s final moments until the big reveal in the present day also revealed the killer. I think the dual timeline also helped add tension as it connected us to Aurora and we saw her as a person rather than her simply being some bones buried years ago. All the characters camping that night were well written and interesting.  I found it harder to connect with Jonah and found him dull at times.

The claim that this is the biggest crime debut of 2019 had me apprehensive as I started reading.  Would it live up to the claim or would it fall flat? I think for me it fell in the middle. I enjoyed this book, but it wasn’t so gripping that I couldn’t put it down. It seemed to go at a pace you’d expect of a book about a cold case but the hype made you expect something else. The big reveal was an unexpected and brilliantly written so it genuinely takes you by surprise.

Expectations aside, this was a good debut novel and a book I’d recommend if you enjoy crime thrillers.

Out Now on Kindle. Out March 21st on Paperback.

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