Source: Review copy
Publication: 18 March 2021 from Michael Joseph
My thanks to the publisher for an advance copy for review
You wake up.
You can’t remember what happened.
The man lying next to you is not your husband.
And he’s not breathing . . .
Louise wakes up. Her head aches, her mouth is dry, her memory is fuzzy. But she suspects she’s done something bad. She rolls over towards her husband, Niall. The man who, until recently, made her feel loved. But it’s not Niall who’s lying beside her. In fact, she’s never seen this man before.
And he’s dead . . .
As Louise desperately struggles to piece her memories back together, it’s clear to Detective Jonah Sheens and his team that she is their prime suspect – though they soon find she’s not the only one with something to hide. Did she do it? And, if not, can they catch the real killer before they strike again?
Lie Beside Me is the third in the DCI Jonah Sheens Southampton based series. I’ve not caught up with this series since She Lies in Wait, the first book, so I read it as if it was a stand-alone and that was not an issue.
Lie Beside Me has a striking opening: Louise Reakes wakes up with a terrible hangover. She feels utterly dreadful, but not quite as dreadful as she feels when she realises that she is in bed with a dead man; he is drenched in blood and she has absolutely no idea who he is. He husband is away at a Pharma conference in Switzerland and isn’t due home until the evening.
Louise is a harp player, married to Niall, but their marriage is not going well. She lacks confidence, feeling inferior to Dina, Niall’s ex and convinced that she can never live up to the sparkling personality that Niall first fell in love with – because that sparkle was entirely alcohol induced.
So she has taken to ensuring that she always sparkles, and that means she’s been drinking way more than ever used to – and certainly more than can ever be good for her. Louise has a new friend, April Dumont, a lively American with a predatory nature when it comes to men. But she’s a real live-wire and just being with her gives Louise confidence. Louise met April at a wedding – the same wedding where she met Niall and so she became what she later refers to as ‘drunk Louise’ that other persona who is funny and flirty and outgoing.
Sadly, the result of this persona is that she sometimes has blackouts – periods of time when she can’t remember where she was or who she was with. So when she finds the dead man in her bed, she panics. (well, you would, wouldn’t you?)
She moves the body and calls the police, all the while dreading what Niall is going to say. This could be the final straw in a rapidly deteriorating relationship. She knows Niall has been seeing his ex-wife, because April has told her so, and she fears she is losing him.
Lodge gives us direct narration from Louise who tells her own story and in writing a letter to Niall, she sets out her own recollection of how she has felt and what has happened to her. Whether or not her account is reliable is something the reader constantly has to second guess. This is interspersed with the police investigation into the death of the dead man, now identified as Alex Plaskett a fitness instructor married to Issa Benhawy.
The police investigation is very much a team effort, with DCI Jonah Sheens steering the investigation but centre stage on this one is DC Juliette Hanson, newly moved from Birmingham to Soton and who has tried and failed to leave behind an abusive boyfriend, Damien. So there is a bit of personality and background to some of the team as they investigate, adding depth and warmth to the storyline and giving extra layers of involvement to the reader.
Gytha Lodge gives us insight into the lives of Louise and Juliette, and there are strong parallels as each woman decides to take a stand and manage their own situations once and for all, whatever the consequences. Both these women have finally had enough of living in the shadows and Lodge gives us a tense and exciting read as she brings them into the light in a twisting and action packed read that really does have you guessing right to the end.
Verdict: With a killer hook and characters you warm to, Gytha Lodge presents a gripping and exciting read. Layered, tense and suspenseful, this is a series I am now putting on my must read list.
Gytha Lodge is a writer and multi-award-winning playwright who lives in Cambridge. After studying creative writing at UEA, she was shortlisted for the Yeovil Literary Prize and the Arts’ Council England fiction awards, and developed a large online following for her young adult and children’s writing, with over seven million reads accrued on platform Wattpad. She Lies in Wait, her debut novel, was a Richard & Judy Book Club Pick.