Liar by Lesley Pearse: Expect thrills, spills, chills – and plenty of unexpected twists and turns - book review -

In strike-hit 1970s London, Amelia White dreams of being a reporter but has to be content selling advertising on a local newspaper.

By Pam Norfolk
Wednesday, 24th June 2020, 12:30 pm

In strike-hit 1970s London, Amelia White dreams of being a reporter but has to be content selling advertising on a local newspaper.

All that changes when she stumbles upon the body of a young woman dumped in a rubbish heap on the side of the road near her flat. It might be the scoop of a lifetime… but it’s set to bring more danger than Amelia could ever have imagined.

For over twenty-eight years, Lesley Pearse – who left home at the tender age of fifteen – has been delighting her army of fans with gripping and emotionally powerful novels featuring tales of courage and adversity, and giving a voice to women from every walk of life.

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Over ten million of Pearse’s books have sold worldwide, earning her a reputation as a master storyteller, and this new page-turner focuses on an era familiar to this gifted writer as she delivers a gripping and gritty story brimming with mystery, suspense, menace and the rich period detail that has become her trademark.

In 1970, the country is riven by bitter industrial unrest which has led to the three-day week, power cuts, and a landscape littered by stinking piles of rubbish because of a dustmen strike. In her Shepherd’s Bush bedsit, 25-year-old Amelia White hopes that her job selling advertising at the West London Weekly newspaper will bring her a step closer to being a reporter, or maybe even an author.

Amelia left home when she was eighteen after an unhappy childhood and her experiences at the hands of a father who terrified his family and was all too ready to use his fists on them. Ambitious and eager to escape her past, she hopes to find a worthwhile career and make more of her life.

And it’s just round the corner from her home one August morning that she makes a shocking discovery. Her eyes can’t help but spot a smart pair of white boots chucked on to one of the small mountains of rubbish… only to find that they are attached to a pair of human legs.

Shocked and distressed, Amelia calls for help and one of her neighbours, Max Creedy, comes to her aid. Soon the police and reporters descend and Amelia is horrified at their aggression and the assumptions and lies about Lucy Whelan, the young woman victim who worked at a nightclub.

Determined to protect Lucy from the smears about her reputation and help her grieving family, she convinces her paper’s editor, Jack Myles – a bad-tempered ‘bulldog’ not noted for his kindness – to let her visit the family and write the true story about Lucy and who she was.

With her first front page story making news across the country and the prospect of a new romance to savour, life is looking up for Amelia but when another body is found and the police investigation stalls, she strikes out alone on the case.

Uncovering new witnesses and suspects in her search for clues, Amelia discovers that she may be the only one with any chance of learning the truth and stopping what is looking like a serial killer. But it’s a dangerous game and she must work out just who is the liar…

Liar is a thrilling and compulsive rollercoaster ride full of twists and turns, and featuring a cast of superbly portrayed characters, from the determined but caring and compassionate Amelia to Max, the handsome new man in her life, and the cameo appearances of the wonderfully cynical old hack, Jack Myles.

Amelia’s perilous battle to see her way through the wall of deception and lies that surrounds her is at the heart of this intriguing murder mystery… but her investigation is also a coming-of-age journey as she finally casts off the chains of her unhappy childhood and takes the road to self-discovery and self-belief.

Expect thrills, spills, chills – and plenty of unexpected twists and turns – as the sometimes reckless Amelia faces betrayal and danger in her relentless hunt for the truth, and her struggle to leave behind the shadows of her past.

Played out against the fascinating backdrop of the industrial discord, fashions, music and social mores of the early Seventies, and packed with drama, intrigue and emotional insight, Liar sees Pearse on her very best form.

(Michael Joseph, hardback, £20)