Eighteen years ago Martha said goodbye to best friend Juliet on a moonlit London towpath.
The next morning Juliet’s bike was found abandoned at the waterside.
She was never seen again.
Nearly two decades later Martha is a TV celebrity, preparing to host a new crime show… and the first case will be that of missing student Juliet Sherman. After all these years Martha must reach out to old friends and try to piece together the final moments of Juliet’s life.
But what happens when your perfect friends turn out to be perfect strangers…?
If you like Clare Mackintosh, Katie Marsh, Kerry Fisher, Jenny Blackhurst, Rachel Abbott, Laura Marshall, Elle Croft, Cara Hunter or Lisa Jewell then you will be utterly gripped by this psychological thriller with a massive twist you won’t see coming.
Beautiful Liars is available to purchase from Amazon. (Please note that link used is an affiliate link.)
#BeautifulLiars Blog Tour – NOVEL OPENINGS
When I’m browsing in my local book shop, I’m unlikely to take a punt on a new-to-me writer without first reading the back cover blurb, quickly followed by the opening page. If those first words don’t grab me, I’ll probably return it to the shelf – after all, there are so many good books out there, and only so much time. A mundane or woolly or unnecessarily complicated opening sentence has the ability to shut down a reader’s attention. A well-crafted, compelling start, on the other hand, has the power to hook and hint and draw us in – and as writers, that’s what we strive to do. We want you to want more; we want you to care about our stories as much as we do.
From time to time, I teach creative writing, and I’m always quick to recommend my students read Stephen King’s On Writing – both as a fascinating study of a writer’s life, and as a treasure trove of great sense. What I love about Mr King’s writing (in this and his novels) is how effortlessly straight-talking he is, avoiding passive phrases and over description in favour of unputdownable storytelling that is a pleasure to read. You can see this at work in the first of several attention-grabbing novel openings I’ve selected below:
The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years – if it ever did end – began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.
- It by Stephen King
I dream about Carmel often. In my dreams she’s always walking backwards.
- The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer
I had been making the rounds of the Sacrifice Poles the day we heard my brother had escaped. I already knew something was going to happen; the Factory told me.
- The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
Dear All – Apologies for the general email, but I desperately need your help. My goddaughter, Coco Jackson, disappeared from her family’s holiday home in Bournemouth on the night of …
- The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood
Rebus placed his knife and fork on the empty plate, then leaned back in his chair, studying the other diners in the restaurant. ‘Someone was murdered here, you know,’ he announced.
- Rather by the Devil by Ian Rankin
Master was a little crazy; he had spent too many years reading books overseas, talked to himself in his office, did not always return greetings, and had too much hair.
- Half a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I hope that a few of you will be intrigued enough by the above short extracts to seek out at least one or two of these excellent novels. In my own writing, I tend to think of opening lines as chinks of light, inviting the reader to push the door a little further, to press their eye against the widening gap in the hope of discovering more. The following extract is the opening from my latest thriller Beautiful Liars. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope it leaves you wanting more …
Many thanks to Sarah for hosting this feature on the #BeautifulLiars Blog Tour.
It wasn’t my fault.
I can see that now, through adult eyes and with the hindsight of rational thinking. Of course, for many years I wondered if I’d misremembered the details of that day, the true events having changed shape beneath the various and consoling accounts of my parents, of the emergency officers, of the witnesses on the rocky path below. I recall certain snatches so sharply – like the way the mountain rescue man’s beard grew more ginger towards the middle of his face, and his soft tone when he said, ‘Hello, mate,’ offering me a solid hand to shake. Hello, mate. I never forgot that. But there are other things I can’t remember at all, such as what we’d been doing in the week leading up to the accident, or where we’d been staying, or where we went directly afterwards. How interesting it is, the way the mind works, the way it recalibrates difficult experiences, bestowing upon them a storybook quality so that we might shut the pages when it suits us and place them safely on the highest shelf. I was just seven, and so naturally I followed the lead of my mother and father, torn as they were between despair for their lost child and protection of the one who still remained: the one left standing on the misty mountain ledge of Kinder Scout, looking down.
I can see the scene now, if I allow my thoughts to return to that remote place in my memory. I watch myself as though from a great distance: small and plump, black hair slicked against my forehead by the damp drizzle of the high mountain air. And there are my parents, dressed head-to-toe in their identical hiking gear: Mum, thin and earnest, startle-eyed – and Dad, confused, his finger pushing his spectacles up his florid nose as he interprets my gesture and breaks into a heavy-footed run. Their alarmed expressions are frozen in time. There is horror as they register that I now stand alone, no younger child to be seen; that I’m pointing towards the precipitous edge, my eyes squinting hard as I try to shed tears. There are no other walkers on this stretch of path, no one to say what really happened when my brother departed the cliff-edge, but the sharp cries of distress from the winding path far below suggest that there are witnesses to his arrival further down.
It wasn’t your fault, it wasn’t your fault, it wasn’t your fault. This was the refrain of my slow-eyed mother in the weeks that followed, while she tried her best to absolve me, to put one foot in front of the other, to grasp at some semblance of normality. ‘It wasn’t your fault,’ she’d tell me at night-time as she tucked the duvet snugly around my shoulders, our eyes never straying to the now-empty bed inhabiting the nook on the opposite side of my tiny childhood room. ‘It was just a terrible accident.’ But, as I look back now, I think perhaps I can hear the grain of uncertainty in her tone, the little tremor betraying the questions she will never voice. Did you do it, sweetheart? Did you push my baby from the path? Was it just an accident? Was it?
And, if I could speak with my mother now, what would I say in return? If I track further back into that same memory, to just a few seconds earlier, the truth is there for me alone to see. Now at the cliff-edge I see two children. They’re not identical in size and stature, but they’re both dressed in bright blue anoraks to match their parents, the smaller with his hood tightly fastened beneath a chubby chin, the bigger one, hood down, oblivious to the sting of the icy rain. ‘Mine!’ the smaller one says, unsuccessfully snatching at a sherbet lemon held loosely between the older child’s dripping fingers. This goes on for a while, and on reflection I think that perhaps the sweet did belong to the younger child, because eventually it is snatched away and I recall the sense that it wasn’t mine to covet in the first place. But that is not the point, because it wasn’t the taking of the sweet that was so wrong but the boastful, taunting manner of it. ‘No!’ is the cry I hear, and I know it comes from me because even now I feel the rage rear up inside me as that hooded child makes a great pouting show of shedding the wrapper and popping the yellow lozenge into its selfish hole of a mouth, its bragging form swaying in a small victory dance at the slippery cliff edge. The tremor of my cry is still vibrating in my ears as I bring the weight of my balled fist into the soft dough of that child’s cheek and see the sherbet lemon shoot from between rosy lips like a bullet. ‘No!’ I shout again, and this time the sound seems to come from far, far away. Seconds later, he’s gone, and I know he’s plummeting, falling past the heather-cloaked rocks and snaggly outcrops that make up this great mountainous piece of land. I know it is a death drop; I know it is a long way down. I can’t say I remember pushing him – but neither can I remember not pushing him.
So you see, I’m not to blame at all. From what I recall of that other child – my brother – he was a snatcher, a tittle-tattle, a cry-baby, a provoker. Even if I did do it, there’s not a person on earth who would think I was culpable.
I was seven, for God’s sake.