Set on the outskirts of a quaint Yorkshire hamlet, this novel reads like a ‘cozy mystery’ at the beginning… but don’t be fooled.
Tom Bowman is a professional baker who has just moved to the area. He has purchased the middle cottage of three that lay situated on the edge of the village. He has just had a new second kitchen installed in which he plans to teach cooking/baking classes. A Michelin star chef, he has traded the stresses of his career for a more relaxed pace after an industrial accident and a relationship break-up.
As he is settling in to his new home, he meets his two neighbours. A young woman lives on one side of him, in the smallest cottage. Alys Peirson is rather prickly in nature, very secretive about her life, is an eccentric dresser and is very, very, thin. She tells him that she works at a co-op store a few days a week and spends the rest of her time tending to her chickens and making silk corsages to sell online. Alys seems to have had a troubled past which has left her with few financial resources and little self-esteem.
On the other side of Tom is his second neighbour, Hannah Wilson. She is very elderly and apparently suffers from dementia. She often mistakes Tom for another man (long dead) called Edward Farley. Tom takes her loaves of freshly baked bread and cakes when he drops in to see her. He worries that this vulnerable old woman lives alone, so he tries to check up on her frequently.
“The past was too crowded for both of them to stay there.”
As time goes on, Tom builds up his business and finds himself falling for the aloof and enigmatic Alys. Their relationship grows very slowly with much trepidation on both their parts. Meanwhile, the elderly Hannah warns Tom to stay away from Alys. She vehemently swears that Alys is a ‘poisoner’ who has killed several people in the past. Alys, on the other hand shares Hannah’s dislike and calls the older woman a “bitter, malicious, nasty piece of work.”
Who is Tom to believe? The woman he has grown to love, or a demented elderly lady?
The three neighbours are all very, very, lonely people. What lengths will they go to keep their loneliness at bay?
Is the poison of the title actual poison? OR, is it the type of poison that lies can inflict upon a person’s reputation and their life?
Then Hannah shows Tom a file she has compiled about Alys and the other names she has gone by in the past…
The cover features the byline “A gripping psychological thriller full of twists“. For that reason I was completely surprised when I began reading. It didn’t seem like a thriller at all. At first it reads like a cozy mystery, then later it leans toward a woman’s fiction type romance, then finally it turns the suspense up and you begin to think perhaps the byline was accurate after all…
The protagonist, Tom Bowman, was a very nice man. If anything he was too nice, with no discernible faults at all. I wish he lived next door to me. Alys Pierson was very enigmatic. The reader doesn’t know whether the woman is just damaged from a traumatic past, or, as the elderly neighbour suggests, that she is ‘evil’ and just hides it well. Hannah Wilson, though likable, goes from demented thoughts back to lucidity several times per day. She is a woman whose word you really cannot trust for that reason alone.
The setting was well described and I could imagine living in the remote Yorkshire hamlet. The writing was compelling and the characters well wrought. If I had to classify this novel it would be a blend of three equal parts: thriller/cozy mystery/ romantic suspense.
The ending did have a plot twist, though due to my own personal skepticism, one which I guessed in advance. This did not mar my enjoyment of the novel at all. In fact I would heartily recommend it and look forward to more books by this author.
I received a complimentary digital copy of “Lies that Poison” from Joffe Books via NetGalley in consideration of a review.Amanda Fleet is a physiologist by training and a writer at heart. She spent 18 years teaching science and medicine undergraduates at St Andrews University, but now uses her knowledge to work out how to kill people (in her books!). She completed her first degree at St Andrews University and her doctorate at University College, London.
She has been an inveterate stationery addict since a child, amassing a considerable stash of fountain pens, ink and notebooks during her lifetime. These have thankfully come in useful, as she tends to write rather than type, at least in the early stages of writing a book.
During her time at St Andrews, she was involved with two Scottish Government funded projects, working with the College of Medicine in Blantyre, Malawi. While in Malawi, she learned about the plight of the many street children there and helped to set up a Community Based Organisation that works with homeless Malawian children to support them through education and training – Chimwemwe Children’s Centre. It was this experience that helped to shape the Malawian aspects in her first novel, The Wrong Kind of Clouds.
Amanda lives in Scotland with her husband, where she can be found writing, walking and running.