Our Little Cruelties by Liz Nugent – unexpected twists and a satisfying ending

Our Little Cruelties is a character-driven novel about three brothers — Will, Brian and Luke Drumm — and the rivalries of their family life.

The story begins at a funeral. One of the brothers is dead but we don’t find out which one until the end of the novel.

Timelines move back and forth from the brothers’ childhood through into their adult lives. The story unfolds slowly, switching between individual points of view and revealing key events that help us understand how each brother became the man he is.

Different but alike, each life story is both influenced by and impacts the brothers’ wider family, work and social relationships. Individual actions have consequences in this novel, often lasting and terrible.

As in her earlier novels, Unravelling Oliver and Skin Deep, Liz Nugent manages to make us feel sympathy for unlikeable characters in a tightly-woven story with unexpected twists, nicely wrapped up in a satisfying ending.

[Disclosure: Review copy from the publisher, Penguin received via Netgalley.]

Skin Deep by Liz Nugent | Compelling psychological drama

The title may be Skin Deep but there is nothing superficial about the characters in Liz Nugent’s third novel. 

The story opens with Cordelia Russel in a room where she has just murdered somebody and is wondering when rigor mortis will set in.

Born on a remote Irish island, Cordelia has been living on the French Riviera for twenty-five years, passing herself off as an English socialite. But her luck has run out. And we find out why as her story slowly unfolds over the coming chapters.

Like Liz Nugent’s earlier novels — Unravelling Oliver and Lying in Wait  Skin Deep is dark. Cordelia is not a likeable character but slowly you come to understand at least some of the reasons why she behaves as she does. And those reasons go back to her early life on the island, particularly her relationship with her father and the expectations he encouraged during her childhood — expectations grounded in myth and dark storytelling.

There are a lot layers to explore in this novel — island life with its hardship, secrets and tight community, family jealousies, betrayal, myth, charity, home, retribution, the elements of fire and water, earth and the mercurial nature of Cordelia herself.

This is carefully crafted novel where the threads are well interwoven and expertly tied together in a satisfying conclusion.

Lying in Wait | Another cracking thriller by Liz Nugent

Liz Nugent has produced another cracking psychological thriller in her second novel, Lying in Wait.

Set in Dublin of the 1980s, Lying in Wait is a twisty, psychological suspense tale of lies and manipulation that grabs your attention from the very first sentence and sustains it to the very last page.

The story is about two families whose lives change following a shocking encounter.

A judge and his wife — Andrew and Lydia Fitzsimmons — have killed a prostitute and buried her in their garden. And they’ve pretty much got away with it. After all, who’d suspect people like them?

The victim, Annie Dunne, is a drug-addict, living alone in a city bedsit. Her life doesn’t matter too much to many people and the investigation into her disappearance soon fizzles out.

But Andrew struggles with guilt while Lydia focuses on protecting their social status. Meanwhile their son Laurence becomes suspicious and gradually, his obsession with the dead girl’s family puts his own family at risk.

Unlike the Fitzsimons family, the Dunnes are not well off, and the official investigation into Annie’s disappearance, soon fizzles out. But, as the years go by, Annie’s sister, Karen remains determined to find out what happened.

The story is narrated by three main characters — Lydia, Laurence and Karen — in alternating chapters. It’s a structure that works well. Each of them is believable and each has an interesting point of view and unique pint of view.

Nugent is a skilful storyteller adept at creating psychologically disturbed characters. Like her debut novel, Unravelling Oliver, Lying in Wait is strong on suspense and tension. A page turner —and just over 300 pages — it could keep you up all night!

Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent is published by Penguin Random House.
[Disclosure: I received an advance review copy from the publisher].