A murder staged as an accident is the sad ending of what set out as a love affair between Erica and Joel. Each from their own perspective tells the story …
A murder takes place, made to look like the perfect accident. A man trapped beneath his car, unable to move but his thoughts are clear: she is not getting away with this! What happened to end a marriage like this? It started innocently enough: a man meets a woman and they fall in love. She is at first insecure and feels things are going too fast but he is not afraid to commit. That was four years ago when Erica was sharing a flat with Rose and Joel walked into her life.
Is William Blake’s quote on the first page of Beautiful Liar enough for us to have second thoughts about Joel who wants to be friends (and more) with Erica? Is it a reflection of the strong bond between Erica and Rose, flatmates and best friends? In the present, we see Joel under his car in the garage of the house he shares with his wife Erica. There is no future for Joel when the car falls down on him, blocking him for the remainder of his life under the car without any way out. In his last minutes, Joel thinks back on his marriage with Erica, their life together and the trouble he had to convince her. In his own words “the harder I pushed, the more it paid off, in the end. She soon came around to my way of thinking.” It was a creepy sentence to read, I thought. And how come his wife Erica had “lost her confidence” during their marriage? For that, we are cast back four years to Erica and Joel’s first meeting.
Erica is surprised when Joel walks up to her as she is standing by the photocopier. His approach is direct and she thinks maybe it is love at first sight while he finds her endearing, her smile enchanting. Erica is at that time sharing an apartment with Rose, her best friend. But Rose is about to move in with her boyfriend which leaves Erica no other option than to search for another roommate because she cannot afford to pay the rent from her salary alone. Erica is worried about Rose and fears she will become her boyfriend’s doormat. Erica is an educated woman who has studied psychology and now works in the field of Human Resources. Her former boyfriend bullied her and that is the reason Erica is eager not to make the same mistake twice and wants to take it slowly with Joel. Erica feels they have to get to know each other before moving on to the next stage in their relationship.
However, Joel is smitten and determined: Erica is going to be his and the sooner the better. Although he is charming we the readers are a bit disturbed by his thoughts and by the way he is trying to impose his lifestyle and his behaviour onto Erica. Joel tells Erica that there is one thing he cannot stand: lying. The book title Beautiful Liar is hanging in the air: does Joel think Erica is lying to him? Or is it Rose who in Joel’s eyes is desperate to hang on to her friendship with Erica and clings on to her to the point where it is obsessive? Then there is Lily, little beautiful and innocent Lily we have briefly met in the first chapters of the book. She is Erica and Joel’s daughter and the reason Joel has to die, at least that is what we are told to believe the very moment the stage for Joel’s murder is set “to look like a convincing accident.”
I was impressed with Beautiful Liar. You would think it is quite obvious what happened, how the relationship progressed between Joel and Erica and yet you cannot grasp it fully until you have reached the end. Recently I have reviewed a book about manipulative behaviour and does not Joel seem a textbook manipulator? There is a dark undercurrent and a plot twist that changes everything. This is a well written psychological thriller where we witness a murder in the present before the story catapults back four years to uncover the events leading to the ending we only now fully understand. From the alternating perspective of the different protagonists we see their side of the story and even after death Joel’s vision and anger about him being killed is loudly voiced. This gives the reader a good insight into the main characters. A great read – I appreciate the Author’s Note at the end.
About the Author
Louise Mullins is the author of five psychological crime thrillers and two historical crime novels, among which The Woman in the Woods (my review) and What I Never Told You (my review). Next to her husband and children, reading and writing are important. Louise Mullins herself says about writing: “If I couldn’t write, I’d be an irritable stress-head. Writing frees the mind, allows you to express yourself, releases your thoughts.“
|Publisher||Bloodhound Books (3 Dec. 2016)|