Saturday, 17 June 2017

Book Review: THE WEIGHT OF LIES by Emily Carpenter

Author: Emily Carpenter
Lake Union Publishing
June 2017
My Rating:🌟🌟🌟🌟

If Frances was the sun ... I was the dinky planet at the end of the line with a number for a name.

Book Description (Goodreads):

In this gripping, atmospheric family drama, a young woman investigates the forty-year-old murder that inspired her mother’s bestselling novel, and uncovers devastating truths—and dangerous lies.

My musings:

It starts with an envelope, delivered to Meg Ashley, a young woman holidaying with friends in Vegas. Meg is terrified as soon as she recognises the sender, because she knows what it will contain:

A bomb. The kind that explodes without making a sound. The kind that destroys.

After all, she has been in that situation many times before, summoned by her famous author mother Frances Ashley, the one person who can cause Meg’s knees to shake and toes to go numb as soon as she hears her name uttered. After three years of running away, Frances has tracked her down, and she knows there will be no escape.

I absolutely loved Meg’s voice, and she gripped me pretty much right from the start. It is obvious that this girl has led a troubled life in the shadow of her overbearing mother and Frances’ famous novel Kitten, which has given them both the means to live a life of carefree luxury – at a cost. Based on the true murder of a little girl when the author was only nineteen, the book propelled her into overnight stardom in the 1970’s and influenced many of Meg’s childhood experiences, including her troubled relationship with her mother.

We needed each other – possibly even loved each other in some strange, flawed way – but it didn’t matter. We were doomed to destroy each other.

Angry and bitter over the latest betrayal by her narcissist parent, Meg sees an opportunity to get even and lay her childhood demons to rest when she is offered to write a tell-all story of her troubled childhood to be published at the 40-year anniversary of her mother’s cult classic. A book which Meg has never even read, perhaps as one of her futile battles of will with her mother. Visiting the small island on which the original murder took place, Meg finds that all may not be as straightforward as first believed. What is fiction, and what is truth? Little does she realise that by digging for the answers to that question, she may be putting herself in danger.

Carpenter writes a great story, and I loved the clever way in which she intersperses the present with passages out of Frances Ashley’s book “Kitten”, which added a spooky, Gothic quality to the story. I could fully understand the (fictional) hype surrounding this book within the book, as I would have loved to devour Kitten myself and buy into the whodunit aspect of the story. As it was, the story of Kitten is slowly being unravelled at the same time as the present time mystery. It all tied in so seamlessly that I was absolutely spellbound and loathe to put the book down, even when the clock struck 2 a.m. and I knew I had to work the next day (apologies to my colleagues who had to deal with my book hangover!). And boy – there was certainly a lot of suspense! The plot, the setting, the characters –all were unique and interesting. I am raving, I know, but after reading a few quite uninspiring mysteries I can appreciate a gem when I find it. The author certainly knows how to create atmosphere, and she does so with seemingly innocent scenes, highlighting details that highlight the dark and sinister undertones in even the most mundane encounter. The island, the big spooky mansion, the wild horses and the island’s inhabitants all have their part to play in a mystery that soon took on a whole momentum of its own – and nothing good could possibly come out of it!

Perhaps the only tiniest misgiving I had with the book related to the ending – not because it wasn’t good, or twisty, or surprising, but because it read like a runaway train clattering crazily into the distance. There was so much going on! I felt as if the author tried to pack in as many twists and turns at the very last minute until my head was spinning. Who, what, why, how???? I think that a simpler explanation would have equally well for me in this case, as the Kitten story alone added so much depth and mystery that it didn’t need anything else to make this book great. If anything, it distracted from the brilliant atmosphere the author had created by including excerpts from Kitten (and from the final bombshell in Chapter 20 of Kitten). But this is a minor quibble, and I am sure that many readers will enjoy the frantic pace. Perhaps I should re-read it in broad daylight, when my brain is still working at capacity, to fully appreciate how neatly all the twists tie in at the end.


The Weight of Lies is a tense, atmospheric and multi-layered mystery with a Gothic feel, and the added bonus of being two books in one! To be totally honest, I was wishing for a copy of Kitten in my sweaty little palms, and am sure I would have been one of its followers, caught up in the vibe. I am grateful to the Goodreads community for putting me onto this great read. If you are looking for a slightly disturbing, well-crafted and twisty mystery, don’t look any further! Highly recommended.

Thank you to Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

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