Lies Behind the Ruin, Helen Matthews: Book Review

Secrets can only stay hidden for so long… meet Lies Behind the Ruin by Helen Matthews, a disturbing and realistic read.

The plot:

Emma Willshire has overcome plenty of obstacles in her life, from student bride to single mum of a son, Owen, but she has found happiness with her second husband, Paul, and another child. Emma’s dark days seem far behind her until a fatal accident happens at Paul’s work and he is held responsible.

On holiday in France, Paul’s behaviour turns erratic. On impulse, he buys a cheap, dilapidated property and, to Emma’s dismay, persuades her they can renovate it into a holiday home.

Back in England, their problems spiral out of control. Escape to a new life in France seems the only solution, but with heart-breaking loss for Emma.

As shadows from the past threaten their happiness and safety, one question comes to light: how can you build a new life on toxic foundations?

It dragged me in from the start

For me, this was a well-rounded, enjoyable book. It pulled in the daily struggles of money, family and secrecy, as well as topics like Brexit and the impact this will have on the characters. Lies Behind the Ruin is set in France (my favourite place ever), and the author has clearly investigated locations and weaved in genuine places and described the area immaculately, allowing you to envision everything going on.

Whilst I could see where the book was going, it didn’t falter the journey and there were still those ‘oh no’ moments and near the end, got more sinister. It was interesting and something that could very much happen, playing on the real horrors of marriage and secrets in a relationship.

The on-going back story of the fatal accident was top-notch. It dragged me in from the start, and I found myself looking forward to the paragraphs that would include more information about it.

I really loved the writing in this book – it was mixed with lots of conversation, but also very detailed descriptions, with short sentences to keep you engaged. The chapters are relatively short so it’s easy to get carried away; you’ll soon find you’ve read 100 pages. The last 50 pages just flew by and was very intense, and I possibly burnt my dinner getting through it.

The chapters themselves are split between Emma and Paul, and the voices are very distinctive. I’m thoroughly impressed, as this chapter change usually annoys me in a book, but their different personalities and tone of voices really came through, so props to Matthews for doing this so well.

My only disagreement with the book is that there were perhaps 2/3 chapters with Owen, and whilst I understand why they were put in, they were too little and infrequent for me to gain anything. What was being insinuated by Owen came across in Emma and Paul’s chapters, so I just question whether they were really necessary. I also doubt one aspect including Emma, but it’s interesting to hear her perspective.

The ending was great, perhaps feeling slightly rushed (but there is only so much an author can say on the subject), however I would’ve liked closure with regard to Owen. I still got a tingle through my body upon finishing the book, so I’d highly recommend to anyone looking for a realistic and occasionally dark read.

Lies Behind the Ruin, Helen Matthews, RRP £7.99 (paperback); Book Depository 

Pages: 369

Publisher: Hashtag Press

Genre: Fiction/ Thriller

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