Source: Review copy
Publication: 20 July 2018 from Orenda Books
Till death do us part…
After leaving her marriage to jealous, possessive oncologist Maxwell, Lily and her six-year-old son have a second chance at happiness with headteacher Sebastian. Kind but vulnerable, Sebastian is the polar opposite of Maxwell, and the perfect match for Lily. After a whirlwind romance, they marry, and that’s when things start to go wrong…
Maxwell returns to the scene, determined to win back his family, and events soon spiral out of control. Lily and Sebastian find themselves not only fighting for their relationship, but also their lives…
Chilling, dark and terrifying, Do No Harm is a taut psychological thriller and a study of obsession, from one of the most exciting new voices in crime fiction.
Lucy Hay is a one of the cleverest writers of domestic noir out there. She neatly offers us just enough characters and then slowly she messes with our heads until we have suspected every one of them at least once – and sometimes twice!
For Lily it is a second marriage. Sebastian is all she needs in a husband; loving, kind and it doesn’t hurt that he has a good, stable job as Headmaster in the local school where Lily also teaches.
Lily and Sebastian won’t be having a grand wedding, but Lily doesn’t care, she is just looking forward to starting her new, happy life. She won’t even let Maxwell’s lurking presence spoil her day. He is the father to their son, Denny, and though he’s not due to pick him up for another hour or so, he’s sitting in the car park in his flash consultant oncologist’s car, just waiting and watching.
Maxwell is everything that Sebastian is not. Outwardly attractive, smooth and doing an incredibly important job, he is also controlling and just a bit cold and scary when he wants to be. He never wanted to give Lily up, despite his philandering and he has nothing but contempt for her new husband, Sebastian.
Fortunately, after a few last minute panics, the wedding passes off well and the happy couple fly off to Mauritius for a week of blissful honeymooning. Ah, but that bliss is to be all too short lived. As soon as they arrive back, all the calm and happiness they had experienced disappears in a welter of petty disasters.
Told in three voices, first person Lily and third person Sebastian, there’s another first person voice that we don’t identify until late in the book.
Together with Triss, Lily’s longstanding best friend and Fran, Sebastian’s mother, this is our cast of principal characters. Yet this book is so beautifully crafted, so elegantly and intricately plotted that the reader is left counting their toes when they have, once more, been wrong-footed by the excellent story arc.
A close domestic drama, Do No Harm is at once thrilling and suspenseful whilst infusing a sense of claustrophobia and suffocation into the mix. Coercive control, trust, the difficulties of separate parenting all have a part to play in this clever, twisty novel.
Lucy Hay’s characters are well formed and believable and the small but deadly acts that slowly attack this marriage are at once petty and manageable, yet at the same time, cruel and cumulatively horrendous.
This is very skillful storytelling and I was blown away by its power and its ability to misdirect and deflect.
Verdict: a deeply chilling, clever and tension filled domestic noir.
About Lucy V. Hay
Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. Her critically acclaimed debut thriller The Other Twin was published in 2017. She is the associate producer of Brit Thrillers Deviation (2012) and Assassin (2015), both starring Danny Dyer. Lucy is also head reader for the London Screenwriters’ Festival and has written two non-fiction books, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays, plus its follow-up Drama Screenplays. She lives in Devon with her husband, three children, six cats and five African Land Snails.
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