Reviewed by Ian Lipke
Readers can always rely on a fast-paced, intelligently-written and interesting thriller when Michael Robotham posts a new book. Following on When She Was Good and When You Are Mine comes his latest publication Lying Beside You, a thriller involving the kidnapping of young women.
The advertising on the covers does its job but promises and delivers much more than it describes. We know that Cyrus Haven, a socially inept forensic psychologist, is brother to a man who killed all other members of Cyrus’s family. The killer Elias Haven is to be released from a mental hospital to live with Cyrus. Then the bodies begin to fall.
A man is dead, his daughter Maya is missing. A second woman is abducted. Witness to at least some of these events is disturbed Evie Cormac, not just a troubled young woman but also Cyrus’s ward. She has the sometimes-useful gift of knowing when a person is lying. She is keen to begin a relationship with Cyrus but he resists on the grounds that, at twenty-one, she is too young for him. Both missing women have secrets that Cyrus has to unravel.
Imagine such a rich supply of characters from which to build a story. With both Cyrus and Evie conscious of secrets from their pasts that may at any time rear up to bite them, and characters that are overtly antisocial, the stage is set for even a medium level writer to create a fine story. It is with just such a scenario that Robotham reveals his genius.
Robotham’s characters are damaged in at least one way. Evie lives with her real identity suppressed. She tries to do what is right but somehow often makes a mess of things. She tries to set Cyrus up with a partner using the power of social media but succeeds only in embarrassing him. She is quick to acknowledge her shortcomings if not always accurate in her judgments:
I don’t deserve to be loved. If I was a good person, I’d want Cyrus to find someone to love. The truth is, I don’t. I created a dating profile for him, but I did everything I could to push the women away (124).
She is firm when dealing with a motorist who attempts to bully a fellow driver (18).
The behaviour of Elias, the murderer, is driven by his own needs. He requires more attention than Cyrus can give him. He would benefit from an education in societal norms and expectations. Hence, he approaches the task of getting another bedroom only as a satisfaction of his immediate needs. Others do not fit into his perspective.
Readers are in no doubt that Robotham knows his setting for his story. In this case it is the districts that encompass London and Nottinghamshire (to choose just two). He does not set out to describe these areas in full. There are small descriptive paragraphs that are used to enlighten the dialogue where most of the sheeting home of the setting takes place.
I have to admit that the title assigned to this story rings no bells for me. I cannot find a link between title and text. The shortcoming will be mine as the author of a text as magnificent as this one is hardly likely to have created a title that makes no sense. A wonderful book.
By Michael Robotham
ISBN: 978 073364 815 1
$32.99; 402 pp