Deception by Lesley Pearse: Fast-paced, gritty, and brimming with the sensitivity – book review -

When Alice Kent’s 75-year-old mother Sally dies from cancer, it seems like a release for a woman who didn’t like being in pain, resented being reliant on people taking care of her, and was ready to rest in peace.

But on the day of the funeral, Alice is confronted by a stranger who tells her that he is her father and that all she believed about her mother is nothing but a carefully concealed lie.

Deception – a twisting, turning and utterly addictive tale of mystery, hardship and self-survival – is the remarkable 30th novel from Lesley Pearse, a master storyteller and one of the nation’s most prolific and best-loved authors.

For over twenty-nine years, Pearse has been delighting her army of fans with gripping novels featuring human drama, domestic discord and powerful emotions, and this compelling new page-turner takes us deep into the heart of a dark family secret.

On the day of her ebullient mother Sally’s funeral in Devon, 35-year-old Alice Kent has mixed feelings. Sally was certainly not a saint – she could be selfish and callous, and had an indomitable assurance that she was ‘always right’ – but she was also fun, beautiful and loved by Alice and her younger sister Emily.

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Her mother’s death has caused successful hotel group manager Alice to reflect on her own brief and disastrous marriage at the age of just 21, and her secret hope that, despite the enjoyment of her single life, she might still find the love affair that ‘turns her life upside-down.’

But at the funeral reception, Alice is approached by a man she has never seen before and he has brought with him a bombshell announcement. Angus Tweedy tells Alice that he is the real father of both her and Emily, and that he served seven years in prison for his bigamous marriage to their mother Sally.

Shocked to her core, Alice questions what this stranger hopes to gain by this revelation after a gap of three decades, and how can her adored and loving dad Ralph not be her true father? And, if Tweedy’s claims are true, why did her mother betray her so badly?

For all her life, Alice had accepted Sally’s faults, and her reluctance to speak about her past but, faced with this staggering deception, Alice knows she must uncover the whole truth about her mother… whatever the emotional cost might be.

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Over ten million of Pearse’s books have sold worldwide, despite waiting until the age of forty-nine to become a published author, and Deception shows off her writing at its very best. Fast-paced, and packed with surprises, this is an intriguing mystery which explores the lasting impact of trauma.

Using her astute psychological insight into the complexities of family relationships, the tensions that arise from deeply hidden secrets, and the struggles and uncertainties that life inevitably throws our way, Pearse brings us a cast of beautifully drawn, authentic characters, each with their viscerally real emotions.

Weaving between two timelines, and exploring the disturbing truth of Sally’s past life, Alice must reconcile the mother she knew and loved with the determined, resilient woman who was forced to make some tough and heartbreaking decisions.

Fast-paced, gritty, and brimming with the sensitivity and empathy that have made Pearse a readers’ favourite, this is a story to savour from first page to last.

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(Michael Joseph, hardback, £20)