Book Review – Under Lying by Janelle Harris

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This book can be found here on Goodreads and here on Amazon

This book covers the following topics and/or genres – Fiction / Thriller / Suspense

Under Lying is a suspense-thriller that focuses on the sudden disappearance of a couple’s little girl. Susan and Paul’s daughter Amelia goes missing during a house-warming party. After Amelia’s disappearance, the relationship between Susan and her husband slowly begins to disintegrate. Paul appears as if he is pointing the finger of blame at Susan and others. There are a lot of moving “parts” at this point in the book, a lot of characters and actions to consider with nothing looking too obvious. Other minor characters are introduced during the party such as Helen, a neighbour that seems friendly and supportive of Susan during the ordeal.

The book is split into two timelines, the past and the present. I wasn’t too keen on the flicking back and forth between the two. I would have preferred that the author didn’t separate the timelines and rather integrated the past into the present without having to define it in separate chapters. I think this segregates the flow of the story way too much and is almost distracting.

In the past timeline, Susan is a student with a twin brother, also a student. Susan’s brother, Adam, goes out to get champagne for their 21st party, and a terrible accident kills him. Susan goes through the various phases of grief, even attending a bereavement group at her old primary school to try and cope with the loss. This is where we meet Jenny, also coping with loss in her life and the two become friends.

I found it hard to feel sympathy for Susan. Early on in the book, I felt nothing but an annoyance for her. I understand this character has endured a lot, but for some reason, she reads like she is just overly-needy and I find that aspect of her difficult to like. Losing a child is a severe topic to tackle, and I commend the writer for choosing this as a foundation for the book. It’s abundantly clear early on in the current timeline that Susan is either very good at acting like she’s grieving for her daughter or entirely truthful about it. I think this aspect of Susan’s personality is both the best and the worst part about her. I also would have thought that after losing a brother as a teenager and a twin at that, Susan would be slightly more experienced in dealing with this level of grief.

Turning to the husband, Paul, he isn’t as engaging as Susan, but there is an air of “what the hell is going on” with him throughout the first half of the book that keeps you wondering about his motivation. Lots of questions arise, which is mirrored in the actions of the detectives assigned to solve the case.

The first major twist in the story comes about half-way through the book, and it’s not very subtle either. I did feel that there was a bit of a “jump” in the plot development, almost like the author was trying to rush through the rest of the story to get to the end. That said, this particular plot twist does what it was intended to do, which is to catch you completely off-guard. It seemed a little “out of nowhere”, but I think the author fully intended for this to happen and for the most part, it works well.

There are several twists throughout this book, but I didn’t feel the others were as impactful as the first. Susan doesn’t escape my original thoughts about her which makes it a lot easier to get behind the person she became as the plot progresses. By the end of the book, I expected to feel a little more relieved than I did, relieved that the story was over and that I didn’t have to continue reading about a character I didn’t enjoy.

I was a tad disappointed at the end as the book had so much promise, which kind of dwindled right after the first twist is revealed. I found myself more invested in the main character than the character deserved. And the ending felt like something was missing or unfinished – perhaps unfinished business or justice unserved.

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