Released: April 2015
Following on from her debut novel, The Accident, C.L. Taylor has written her second psychological thriller about four girlfriends who travel to a magical retreat in South Asia, only to fall prey to a twisted cult.
The story starts with an envelope, and in that envelope is a single piece of paper, folded into four, with one sentence written in the centre of the page: ‘I know your name’s not really Jane Hughes’. Our main character, Jane, is hiding her murky past; she’s moved where nobody knows her history – including her real name – and has shaped a safe and easy life for herself, which involves working at an animal sanctuary.
Realising that someone is trying to draw her out, Jane is forced to remember the events that only brought two out of four girls home from their holiday of a lifetime. From here the story switches between the present, as Jane tries to figure out who’s trying to hurt her, and the past, where Emma (Jane’s real name) and her three friends travel to Nepal in search of rest and relaxation.
The girls’ retreat to Ekanta Yatra looked wonderful on paper but the cracks in their friendship begin to form almost immediately. At best, the four girls share a strained relationship, with each playing their part to make the group work. Emma is the pushover, Daisy the attention seeker, Al just wants to wallow over her broken heart, while Lianne just wants to do whatever Daisy does. On the outside they’re a normal set of friends, but bubbling under the surface is resentment, anger and jealousy just waiting to be unleashed.
Emma and her friends become entangled in a dangerous cult, which slowly turns them against each other. But the creepy mountain-top community ruins more than the girls’ already fractured friendship; it threatens to ruin the girls’ lives if they don’t escape. Al and Emma see the warning signs and want to leave, but Daisy and Leanne are adamant that they must stay and get the most out of their experience. If you’ve ever been on an all-girls holiday, you’ll have encountered the tug of war between different personalities and C.L. Taylor has captured this female power struggle perfectly.
The Lie is a disturbing tale that takes the idea of the idyllic destination we all dream of jetting off to and turns it into a nightmare. The cult masquerading as a retreat is the obvious threat of the novel, but it is the girls themselves that pose the biggest danger to one another. The cult-leaders draw out the brittleness of the friendship and it’s both fascinating and frightening to see the story pan out as the girls pick their allegiances.
Taylor cleverly reveals little pieces of the puzzle as the novel progresses, ensuring that the reader is kept in the dark until the very end. So after such an action packed and exciting novel, I was slightly disappointed that the finale – which pits Jane against her tormentor – feels a bit rushed. Such detail is given to the past and Jane’s struggle to keep it buried, that we’re barely given enough time to process who the antagonist is before the book ends.
If anything, that criticism is a compliment to Taylor’s writing because I became so absorbed in The Lie that I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the characters. When the final page turns, Ekanta Yakra is still shrouded in mystery, but what’s not is C. L. Taylor’s talent for writing a suspense-filled novel.
The Lie is published in paperback on April 23rd.