Cover image for The lies we told / Camilla Way.
Title:
The lies we told / Camilla Way.
Author:
ISBN:
9781101989524
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Berkley, 2018.

©2018
Physical Description:
324 pages ; 21 cm
Abstract:
"The highly acclaimed author of Watching Edie returns with a new novel of dark psychological suspense that explores how those closest to us have the most to hide ... When Clara's boyfriend, Luke, disappears, everyone believes that he's left her, but Clara thinks she knows the truth. Recent evidence suggests that Luke had a stalker, and Clara worries that he's been kidnapped. Then Luke's older sister, Emma, who vanished twenty years ago, suddenly reappears. Emma wants to help Clara with her search for Luke, but she refuses to talk about what happened--even though it nearly destroyed her family when she vanished. And the deeper Clara digs into Luke's mysterious disappearance, the more convinced she is that the two incidents are connected"-- Provided by publisher.
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Summary

Summary

The highly acclaimed author of Watching Edie returns with a new novel of dark psychological suspense that explores how those closest to us have the most to hide...

A daughter
Beth has always known there was something strange about her daughter, Hannah. The lack of emotion, the disturbing behavior, the apparent delight in hurting others...Sometimes Beth is scared of her and what she could be capable of.

A son
Luke comes from the perfect family, with the perfect parents. But one day, he disappears without a trace, and his girlfriend, Clara, is desperate to discover what has happened to him.

A life built on lies
As Clara digs into the past, she realizes that no family is truly perfect, and uncovers a link between Luke's long-lost sister and a strange girl named Hannah. Now Luke's life is in danger because of the lies once told and the secrets once kept. Can Clara find him before it's too late?


Author Notes

Camilla Way has been an editor and writer for magazines in the UK and is the author of Watching Edie .


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

This creepy stalker thriller about secrets coming home to roost from Way (Watching Edie) highlights a queasy theme for the baby boomer set: how little control parents have over their children. A split narrative format gives a powerful sense of unfolding mystery and encroaching danger as the action alternates between past and present. In 2017, Clara Haynes's search for her boyfriend, Luke Lawson, suddenly gone from their London flat, brings her more deeply into the complex, dysfunctional dynamics of his family, especially their reticence to discuss the disappearance of his older sister, Emily, when he was a child. In flashbacks to the mid-1980s, Beth Jennings describes her increasing desperation in managing her sociopathic daughter, Hannah. Lackadaisical police involvement, both in Luke's missing person case and in their lack of oversight of Hannah, diminishes the scenario's plausibility. Despite the novel's structural flaws, Way delivers palpable tension and engages the reader though the end. Agent: Emma Parry, Janklow & Nesbit. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


New York Review of Books Review

IT'S been 30 years since the publication of Thomas Harris's "The Silence of the Lambs," the suspense novel that pitted the F.B.I. trainee Clarice Starling against the serial killer Hannibal Lecter, showcased them as they bored into each other's psyches and did more to change the genre than any novel until Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl" a generation later. To revisit "The Silence of the Lambs" today is to encounter a story that shows its age - not just because of the of-its-era language in which transgender issues are discussed, but because it is something that too few thrillers dare to be in 2018: strictly linear. Harris's book gets its title from Lecter's remorseless probing of a terrifying, and personality-shaping, experience from Starling's childhood - the night she awoke to hear the cries of spring lambs being slaughtered and realized she was powerless to help them. Lecter forces this disclosure as part of a deal: He'll offer clues about a current killer if Clarice provides information about the childhood vulnerabilities that still drive her as an adult. It's unnerving, it's effective and, most transgressively, it's chronological. Harris tells his story with nary a flashback, just unremitting forward momentum right up to the final chapter's climactic taunt - "Well, Clarice, have the lambs stopped screaming?" In its way, "The Silence of the Lambs" is a novel about early trauma - the thing that Lecter, the evil genius, is acute enough to perceive through all of Starling's careful presentational concealment. But it casts only brief, fierce sidelong glances at the past. If it were written today, Clarice's early years would almost certainly get about 100 more pages of play, in chapters that alternate with the present-day case and slow-walk readers through her youth until reaching the incident that is meant to explain everything about who she is now. Ours is an era in which we are all becoming fluent in the language of trauma, post-traumatic stress, recovery and survival, but what is good for humanity may be bad for thrillers. Agreat suspense novel should be, on some level, destabilizing; at least once, even as the narrative propels you onward, you should want to go back to reread a passage that's been completely recontextualized by something you just learned. But today, trauma as a universal motivator has worked its way so deeply into the architecture of many novels that it threatens to become mundane. No matter how many skeletons are unearthed, if the sole purpose of revealing them is to vanquish the darkness with explanatory lucidity, the result is distinctly unthrilling, as if the entirety of Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" were now narrated by the loquacious shrink who pops up at the end of the movie. Split timelines - the bad past that explains the bad present - are a genre staple, and the emergence of something awful and long-suppressed is such a consistent motif that it has turned many novels into waiting games: "What exactly happened back then? Tell!" Readers speed ahead not because they're gripped but because they're impatient with so much calculated withholding. If these books become efficient conveyor belts that trundle along with the promise of a tidy little gift bag of answers and rationales right out of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, you may well feel relieved, but you are unlikely to feel disturbed. For a thriller, disturbed is better. ONE of the most exciting things about Sara Gran's the infinite blacktop (Atria, $26) is the way it uses all of these often restrictive neo-conventions to its advantage in order to create a completely original hybrid of mystery, thriller, contemporary noir, dark comedy and postmodern meditation about what it means to be a detective. This is the third in a series of novels to feature Claire DeWitt, the self-professed "best detective in the world," although she is actually closer to Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone if Kinsey had thrown everything away and taken a serious turn toward the dark side. The newest story opens in 2011, as Claire is on the wrong end of a car crash that may be a deliberate attempt to kill her. As Gran hurtles ahead in that narrative, we also leap back to an account of the disappearance of Claire's childhood friend in 1986 Brooklyn and to a third story, of the 1999 case that made her into a professional detective. Gran makes this fragmentation, in which no single story line ever becomes central, feel organic to her main character, who also seems constructed out of jagged shards, and is as dangerous as you'd imagine someone fitting that description might be. She steals cars, pulls knives on people who get in her way and cold-cocks others when they double-cross her, scrawling "CLAIRE DEWITT ALWAYS WINS" on their walls as a flourish. She views life experience as an "infinite blacktop of things you'd regret not knowing later" and her future as "a long series of empty moments that took me down a ... highway to nowhere in particular." We don't know why she's like this; she doesn't either. In fact, nobody in this cold, hard-core, genre-blurring novel can be understood except in analogical terms; even a murderer finds himself bewildered to be "someone who DID things. Someone like the people in detective novels." In "The Infinite Blacktop," all that brings characters together is that they dissociate on the same frequency. For good measure, Gran throws in excerpts from a detection manual that has special meaning for Claire, and a long chunk of a teen-sleuth saga as well. The last quarter of her book takes a plunge into metafiction that is likely to be polarizing. (Note scribbled in the margin: "What IS this?") But it helps that Gran has an engagingly sardonic voice and a sure grip of storytelling basics, even those she is manifestly interested in ignoring or transcending; in particular, the 1999 sections work as a satisfying whodunit/whydunit of which Ross Macdonald probably would have approved. "The Infinite Blacktop" is droll, savage and healthily unsettling, even at moments when it verges on becoming an essay about its own construction. THE ENGLISH novelist Camilla Way may not be the innovative stylist Gran is, but in THE LIES WE TOLD (Berkley, paper, $16), she makes up for it with no-nonsense efficiency. "At first I mistook the severed head for something else. It wasn't until I was very close that I realized it was Lucy's," she begins in 1986. Just a couple of pages later, she leaps to present-day London, where we're immersed in the lives of Clara Haynes and Luke Lawson, a young couple who both work in magazines. Luke has a secret life on the internet (there may be a contemporary thriller in which the role Facebook is assigned is non-malevolent, but it has not yet presented itself). He also has a stalker. He soon goes missing, but let's not linger on that too long, because there's poor decapitated Lucy to consider. The other half of this novel, which alternates timelines throughout, unfolds the plight of Doug and Beth Jennings, who have a bird-murdering, fire-starting 5-year-old bad seed of a daughter. The kiddie sociopath with the thousand-yard glower may be somewhat too easy a go-to in thrillers, but anyone who grew up on mass-market paperbacks for which the cover art was some forbidding version of a blood-spattered, blankly staring broken doll will feel an almost nostalgic connection to this novel. The intrigue of "The Lies We Told" is, at least initially, how and when these two plotlines - the demon seed from 30 years back and the possibly kidnapped boyfriend from right now - are going to knit together. If the answer seems slightly inevitable just from that description, at least Way throws in three or four other questions that become suspenseful in their own right, all of which come under the general heading of "How well do you really know your boyfriend/daughter/ son/ mother/neighbor?" The writing isn't dazzling, but the construction and pacing are solid, staying just far enough ahead of the reader to be fun, and offering, in the last quarter, a buffet table of twists - if you don't like one, just stick around for 10 pages - and an open door to a sequel. More than one of the women in this novel is a monster, more than one of the men is an easily manipulated dolt or lech, and its view of mental illness is antediluvian. But nobody ever said thrillers have to play nice as long as they play fair. BITTER ORANGE (Tin House, $25.95), by Claire Fuller, plays both nice and fair. This is not a particularly brutal or cruel novel, as thrillers go. Again the timeline is split: In 1989, Frances Jellico, a woman in late middle age, lies dying in an institution of some kind, while remembering a summer she spent 20 years earlier with a young couple that represented everything she had always been denied - friendship, pleasure, sexuality, intimacy Frances, a lonely, awkward social misfit recently freed from the constraints of caring for her sick mother but still burdened with plenty of baggage, is a type familiar to readers of the great Ruth Rendeli - a woman whose personal issues will end up making her either a victim or an agent of chaos. And Peter and Cara, who share a languorous, hothouse summer with her in an old English country mansion to which they've brought their own secrets, are the spark. Fuller, a skilled stylist, is very good at letting you get to know Frances by degrees and at describing a setting in which the ordinary rules of life feel suspended. She conveys the exoticism of a temporary new home and the eroticism of a temporary new attachment. You can taste the wine, smell the musty fabrics and the overripe fruit, hear the hum of lazy insects and track the teasing suggestion that something will eventually go terribly wrong. She keeps the suspense at such a low simmer - as if Anita Brookner had decided to try her hand at a potboiler - that you might be forgiven for wondering if, at times, the flame has gone out altogether. What tension there is rests on whether the rupture - the thing that will make that summer describable as "fateful" - will arrive because Frances is unequipped to deal with this couple, or because they're sinister and somehow using her as a pawn. But the very fact that Frances is narrating the story in a second, decades-later timeline lowers the stakes by removing one possibility: Whatever happens, you know that she lives to tell the tale. Too much of "Bitter Orange" consists of two interesting, dramatic people doling out selective information to their undramatic listener; even as the noose tightens (and it does), you sense you could still slip out of it. It's a tribute to Fuller's abilities that even when her plot feels slight, the atmosphere she conjures creates its own choking sense of dread. SARAH PINBOROUGH has set the swift and entertaining CROSS HER HEART (Morrow/ HarperCoiiins, $26.99) entirely in present-day England, opting (at least initially) for one timestream but multiple narrators. Her story is told variously by Lisa, a 40-ish recruitment executive with a busy job and the loss of a young son in her past; her teenage daughter, Ava, who compulsively checks Facebook, connects with her friends in a WhatsApp group called MyBitches, is being text-seduced by a creepy older man, and is, in general, a first-act-of-"SVU" victim in print form; and Marilyn, Lisa's closest friend. Pinborough writes these women with a good ear, a lack of sentimentality and a sharp sense of how difficult intergenerational communication can be. She also holds the cards she's planning to play very tightly Sixty pages in, "Cross Her Heart" still feels less like a thriller than like one of those books with a drearily earnest set of reader's guide questions at the end: "What did you think of Lisa's choices? Do you think Lisa and Ava have more in common than they realize?" But stick with it, because when Pinborough unveils her first surprise about a third of the way in, it's a good one, so good that even the legally mandated device that kicks in with it - chapters headed "Now," "After" and (for a big 1989 section) "Before" - doesn't slow her novel's momentum. None of the plot points here are entirely new - they involve the requisite terrible teenage incident, multiple identities, the internet, the possibility of false memory, at least one total psycho, a decades-long game of revenge and a climax (one of many) about which one character, not inappropriately, remarks, "You sound like you're in one of those terrible straight-to-DVD thrillers!" But what feels fresh is the dispatch with which Pinborough throws every one of them into a single novel. The mechanics aren't deftly concealed here, but the machine itself works, motoring toward about five different endings. "Cross Her Heart" also has a welcome sisterhood-ispowerful vibe; it's a novel that defines women by their relationships with one another, even as their creator is ruthlessly shoving them into position for the next twist. RELATIONSHIPS AMONG WOMEN - even women who have never met - are also at the core of Sarah Meuleman's find me gone (Harper/HarperCollins, paper, $15.99), which IS set in 2014 New York and in northwest Belgium in 1996, where, sigh, The Bad Thing That Will Be Dosed Out One Teaspoon at a Time occurred. There is a lot that needs to be forgiven in the early stages of this novel. Our protagonist is Hannah, a fashion-mag journalist whose full-time position filing a mere 200 words of party coverage per issue (!) affords her a nice apartment in the West Village (!!), but who forsakes both job and rental for the wild yet integritypacked frontier of Bushwick, where she plans to write a book. We intuit that something horrible has happened to her, partly because Hannah's friend helpfully says: "We all know about the horrible thing that happened." (This is a novel in which, be warned, things like that are said with regularity.) Signs suggest that whatever it was happened 18 years earlier, when Hannah was a child in Bachte-Maria-Leerne. When "Find Me Gone" pries itself away from its unconvincing glimpse of Downtown Manhattan's publishing-and-parties demimonde, it becomes a stranger and darker novel than its beginning suggests. The Belgium sections, about a dreadful kidnapping and the shaky romantic friendship between two girls on the cusp of puberty, are believable, and then Agatha Christie and Virginia Woolf show up as characters in chapters of their own. They're part of the book Hannah is writing, about writers who "fought their battles, swam against the current and then disappeared one day. Just like the 12-year-old girl who vanished from a Belgian village," a connection it would have been better to allow readers to make. Showing one's hand like that doesn't help a thriller, nor does leaning on "Where is this all going?" for as long as "Find Me Gone" does. Hannah's journey is persuasively grim and not without surprises; ultimately, it becomes a meditation on the possibility that a woman can create her identity by controlling the terms of her own disappearance. But I couldn't help wondering if that magazine job was still available. MARK HARRIS'S most recent book is "Five Came Back." He is currently working on a biography of Mike Nichols.


Library Journal Review

Clara wakes up one morning to find her boyfriend Luke has vanished. Way's (Watching Edie) new psychological thriller follows Clara as she tries to put together the pieces-threatening emails, a workplace affair, shady friends-and slowly discovers a dark secret that Luke's family has been hiding. Could Luke's disappearance be tied to that of his sister, who mysteriously removed herself from the family years ago? The answers lie with a young woman who has an affinity for physical and psychological torture. As a child, she enjoyed mutilating animals and discreetly harming her family. As an adult, she won't rest until those who have caused her pain are punished, and Clara is along for the ride. VERDICT With the popular "evil little girl" trope reminiscent of movies such as The Ring and TV series like Pretty Little Liars, this title adds dual time lines and highlights the complexity of human nature and the need to belong. An engaging read that is creepy but won't keep you up at night.-Chelsie Harris, San Diego Cty. Lib. © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof*** Copyright © 2018 Camilla Way One Cambridgeshire, 1986 At first I mistook the severed head for something else. It wasn't until I was very close that I realized it was Lucy's. To begin with, I thought the splash of yellow against the white of my pillow was a discarded sock, a balled-up handkerchief perhaps. It was only when I drew nearer and saw the delicate crest of feathers, the tiny, silent beak, that I fully understood. And suddenly I understood so much more: everything in that moment became absolutely clear. "Hannah?" I whispered. A floorboard creaked in the hall beyond my bedroom door. My scalp tightened. "Hannah"--a little louder now, yet with the same fearful tremor in my voice--"is that you?" No answer, but I felt her there, somewhere near; could feel her waiting, listening. I didn't want to touch my little bird's head, could hardly bear to look at the thin brown line of congealed blood where it had been sliced clean from the body, or at the half-open, staring eyes. I wondered if she'd been alive or dead when it happened, and started to feel sick. When I went to Hannah's bedroom, she was standing by her window, looking down at the garden below. I said her name and she turned and regarded me, her beautiful dark eyes somber, just a trace of a smile on her lips. "Yes, Mummy?" she said. "What's wrong?" Two London, 2017 Clara woke to the sound of rain, a distant siren wailing somewhere along Old Street, and the low, steady thump of bass from her neighbor's speakers. She knew instantly that Luke wasn't home--not just absent from their bed but from the flat itself--and for a moment she lay staring into the darkness before reaching for her phone. Four twelve a.m. No missed calls, no text messages. Through the gaps of her curtains, she could see the falling rain caught in a streetlamp's orange glare. From below her window on Hoxton Square came the sudden sharp peal of female laughter, followed by the clattering stumble of high heels. Another hour passed before she finally gave up on sleep. Beyond their bedroom door, the first blue light had begun to seep into the flat's dark corners, the furniture gradually taking shape around her, its colors and edges looming like ships out of the darkness. The square's bars and clubs were silent now, the last stragglers long gone. Soon the sweep and trundle of the street cleaners' truck would come to wash the night away; people would emerge from their buildings, heading for buses and trains; the day would begin. Above her, the repetitive beat continued to pound, and sitting on the sofa wrapped in her duvet now, she stared down at her phone, her tired mind flicking through various explanations. They hadn't had a chance to speak yesterday at work, and she'd left without asking him his plans. Later, she'd met a friend for drinks before going to bed early, assuming he'd be back before too long. Should she call him now? She hesitated. They'd moved in together only six months before, and she didn't want to be that girlfriend--nagging and needy, issuing demands and curfews. It was not the way things worked between them. He was out having fun. No big deal. It had happened before, after all--a few drinks that had turned into a few more, then sleeping it off on someone's sofa. Yet it was strange, wasn't it? To not even text--to just not come home at all? It wasn't until she was in the shower that she remembered the importance of the day's date. Wednesday the twenty-sixth. Luke's interview. The realization made her stand stock-still, the shampoo bottle poised in midair. Today was the big interview for his promotion at work. He'd been preparing for it for weeks; there was no way he would stay out all night before something so important. Quickly she turned the water off and, wrapping herself in a towel, went back to the living room to find her phone. Clicking on his number, she waited impatiently for the ringtone to kick in. And then she heard the buzzing vibration coming from beneath the sofa. Crouching, she saw it, lying on the dusty expanse of floor, forgotten and abandoned: Luke's mobile. "Shit," she said out loud, and as though surprised, the pounding music above her head ended abruptly. After a moment's thought she clicked open her e-mail, and sure enough, there it was, a message from Luke, sent last night at six twenty-three from his work address. Hey darling, left my phone at home again. I'm going to stay and work on stuff for the interview, probably be here till eight, then coming home--want to have an early night for tomorrow. You're out with Zoe, aren't you? See you when I do, Lx An hour later, as she made her way up Old Street, she told herself to get a grip. He'd changed his mind, that was all. Decided to go for a pint with his team, then ended up carrying the night on. He couldn't let her know because he was phoneless--nothing else to it. She would see him soon enough at work, hungover and sheepish, full of apologies. So why was her stomach twisting and turning like this? Beneath the April sky, gray and damp like old chewing gum, she walked the ugly thoroughfare that was already gnarled with traffic, with the brutal hulking buildings of the roundabout ahead and the wide pavements filled with commuters pressing on and on, clutching coffee, earbuds in, staring down at phones or else inward looking, unseeing, as they moved as one toward the white-tiled station entrance, to be sucked in, then hurtled forward, and spit out again at the other end. The magazine publisher where they both worked was in the center of Soho. Though they were on separate magazines--she a writer on a finance title, he heading the design desk of an architectural quarterly--it was where they'd met three years ago, shortly before they'd started going out. It had been her first day at Brindle Press and, eager to make a good impression, she'd offered to make the first round of tea. Anxiously running through everyone's names as she'd sloshed water onto tea bags and stirred in milk and sugar, she'd piled too many mugs on the tray before she'd hurried out of the kitchen. The mess when it slipped from her hands and came crashing to the floor had been spectacular: scattered shards of broken crockery, rivers of steaming brown liquid, her carefully chosen "first day" dress soaked through. Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck. It was only then that she'd looked up and seen him, the tall, good-looking man standing in the doorway, watching her with amusement. "Oops," he'd said, crouching down to help her. "Christ, I'm an idiot," she'd wailed. He'd laughed. "Don't worry about it," he said, then added, "I'm Luke." That evening, when her new team had taken her out for welcome drinks, she had spotted him by the bar, her heart quickening as she met his gaze, his dark eyes holding her there, as though he'd reached out his hand and touched her. Now, as she approached her desk, the phone rang, its tone signaling an internal line, and she snatched it up eagerly. "Luke?" But it was his deputy, Lauren. "Clara? Where the fuck is he?" She felt herself flush. "I don't know." There was a short, surprised silence. "Right. What, you don't . . . You haven't seen him this morning?" "He didn't come home last night," she admitted. Lauren digested this. "Huh." And then Clara heard her say loudly to whoever was listening nearby, "He didn't come home last night!" A chorus of male laughter, of leering comments she couldn't quite catch, though the tone was clear: Naughty Luke. They were joking, she knew, and their laughter was comforting, in a way, signifying their lack of concern. Still, she clutched the receiver tightly until Lauren came back on the line. "Well, not to worry. Fucker's probably dead in a ditch somewhere," she said cheerfully. "When you do speak to him, tell him Charlie's raging--he's missed the cover meeting now. Later, yeah?" And then she hung up. Maybe she should go through his contacts list, ring around his friends. But what if he did arrive soon? He'd be mortified she'd made such a fuss. And surely he was bound to turn up sooner or later--people always did, after all. Suddenly his best friend, Joe McKenzie's, face flashed into Clara's mind, and for the first time, her spirits lifted a little. Mac. He'd know what to do. She grabbed her mobile and hurried out into the corridor to call him, feeling immediately comforted when she heard his familiar Glaswegian accent. "Clara? How's it going?" She pictured Mac's pale, serious face, the small brown eyes that peered distractedly from beneath its mop of black hair. "Have you seen Luke?" she asked. "Hang on." The White Stripes blared in the background while she waited impatiently, imagining him fighting his way through the chaos of his photographic studio before the noise was abruptly killed and Mac came back on the line. "Luke? No. Why? What's-- Haven't you?" Quickly she explained, her words spilling out in a rush: Luke's forgotten mobile, his e-mail, his missed interview. "Yeah," Mac said when she'd finished. "That's odd, right enough. He'd never miss that interview." He thought for a moment. "I'll call around everyone. Ask if they've seen him. He's probably been on a bender and overslept--you know what he's like." But his text half an hour later read, No one's heard from him. I'll keep trying though, I'm sure he'll turn up. She couldn't shake the feeling that something was very wrong. Despite his colleagues' laughter, she didn't really think he'd been with another woman. Even if he had, a one-night stand didn't take this long, surely. She made herself face the real reason for her anxiety: Luke's "stalker." Putting the word in inverted commas, treating it all as a bit of a joke, was something Luke had done ever since it had begun nearly a year ago. He'd even christened whoever it was "Barry"--a comical, harmless name to prove just how unthreatened he was by it all. "Barry strikes again!" he'd say after yet another vicious Facebook message, or silent phone call, or unwelcome "gift" through the post. But then things had gotten weirder. First an envelope stuffed with photographs had been pushed through their mail slot. Each one was of Luke and showed him doing the most mundane things--queuing at a café, or walking to the tube, or getting into their car. Whoever had taken them had clearly been following him closely--with a wide-angled lens, Mac had said. It had made Clara's skin crawl. The photos had been stuffed through their mail slot with arrogant nonchalance, as if to say, This is what I can do. Look how easy it is. But though she'd been desperate to call the police, Luke wouldn't hear of it. It was as if he was determined to pretend it wasn't happening, that it was merely an annoyance that would soon go away. And no matter how much she begged, he wouldn't budge. And then, three months ago, they'd come home late from a party to find the door to their flat forced open. Clara would never forget the creepy chill she'd felt as they silently walked around their home, knowing some stranger had recently been there--going through their things, touching their belongings. But the strange thing was, everything had been left in perfect order: nothing had been stolen; nothing, as far as she could tell, had been moved. Only a handwritten message on a page torn from Clara's notepad had been sitting on the kitchen table: I'll be seeing you, Luke. At least Luke had been sufficiently rattled to let Clara report that to the police. Who didn't even turn up until the next day and discovered precisely nothing--the neighbors hadn't seen anything; no fingerprints had been found--and as nothing had been taken or damaged, within days the so-called "investigation" had quietly fizzled out. Stranger still, after that, it was as if whoever it was had lost interest. For weeks now there'd been no new incidents, and Luke had been triumphant. "See?" he'd said. "Told you they'd get bored eventually!" But although Clara had tried hard to put it out of her mind, she hadn't quite been able to forget the menace of that note--or the idea that the culprit was still out there somewhere, just biding his time. And now Luke had disappeared. What if "Barry" had something to do with it? Even as she allowed the thought to form, she could hear Luke's laugh, see his eyes roll. "Jesus, Clara, will you stop being so dramatic?" But as the morning progressed, her sense of foreboding grew and when lunchtime came, instead of going to her usual café, she found herself walking back toward the tube. She reached Hoxton Square half an hour later, and when she caught sight of her squat yellow-bricked building on its farthest corner, she was struck suddenly by the overwhelming certainty that Luke would be there waiting for her, and she ran the final few hundred yards--past the restaurants and bars, the black railings and shadowy lawn of the central garden--and out of breath by the time she reached the front door, she impatiently unlocked it before sprinting up the communal stairs to her flat. But when she got there, it was empty. She sank into a chair, the flat too silent and still around her. On the coffee table in front of her was a photo she'd had framed when they'd first moved in together, and she picked it up now. It was of the two of them on Hampstead Heath three summers before, heads squashed together as they grinned into the camera, a scorching day in June. That first summer, the days seemed to roll out before them hot and limitless, London theirs for the taking. She had fallen in love almost instantly, as effortlessly as breathing, certain she had never met anyone like him before, this handsome, exuberant man so full of energy and sweetness and easy charm, who (inexplicably, it seemed to her) appeared to find her just as irresistible. As she gazed down at the photo now, their happiness trapped and unreachable behind glass, she traced his face with her finger. "Where are you?" she whispered. "Where the bloody hell are you, Luke?" At that moment she heard the front door slam two floors below and her heart lurched. She listened, her breath held, as the footsteps on the stairs grew louder. When they paused outside her door, she sprang to her feet and rushed to open it, but with a jolt of surprise found it was her upstairs neighbor, and not Luke, staring back at her. She didn't know the name of the woman who'd lived above them for the past six months. She could, Clara thought, be anything between mid-twenties and mid-thirties; it was impossible to tell. She was very thin with long, lank brown hair, behind which could occasionally be glimpsed a small, finely featured face covered in a thick, masklike layer of makeup. In all the time Clara and Luke had lived there, she'd never once replied to their greetings, merely shuffling past with downcast eyes whenever they met on the stairs. Every time either of them had gone up to ask her to turn her music down, which she played loudly night and day, she refused to answer the door, merely turning the volume up higher until they went away. "Can I help y--," Clara began, but the woman had already begun heading toward the stairs. Clara watched her go for a moment before her worry and stress got the better of her. "Excuse me!" she said loudly, and her neighbor froze, one foot poised on the first step, eyes averted. "It's about the music. Could you give it a rest, do you think? It's all night long, and sometimes most of the day too--can't you turn it down once in a while?" The woman didn't reply at first, then finally, slowly turned her face toward Clara. Her eyes, rimmed thickly in black kohl, landed on her own for a moment before flitting away again, as she asked softly and with the faintest ghost of a smile, "Where's Luke, Clara?" Clara could only stare back at her, too surprised to respond. "I'm sorry?" "Where's Luke?" She'd had no idea the woman even knew their names. Perhaps she'd seen them written on their post, but it was the way she said it--so familiar, so knowing, and with such a strange smile on her lips. "What do you mean?" Clara asked, but the woman only turned and carried on up the stairs. "Excuse me! Why are you asking about Luke?" But there was still no reply. Clara stood staring after her. It was as if the world were conspiring in some surreal joke against her. The door to the upstairs flat opened and then closed again and at last Clara went back to her own flat. She stood in her narrow hallway, listening, until a few seconds later the familiar thud of bass began to thump against her ceiling once more. It was past two. She should go back to work; her colleagues would be worried by now. But Clara didn't move. Should she start phoning around hospitals? Perhaps she should Google their numbers--at least that way she would be doing something. She went to the small boxroom they used as an office and at a touch of the mouse pad, Luke's laptop flickered into life, the browser opening immediately at Google Mail--and Luke's personal e-mail account. For a second she stared at the screen, her finger hovering, knowing that she shouldn't pry. But then her gaze fell upon his list of folders. Below the usual "Inbox," "Drafts," and "Trash" was one labeled, simply, "Bitch." She stared at in shock before clicking on it. And then her jaw dropped--there were at least five hundred messages, sent from several different accounts over the past year, sometimes as often as five times a day. She opened and read them one by one. Did you see me today Luke? I saw you. Keep your eyes peeled. And I know you Luke, I know what you are, what you've done. You might have most people fooled, but you don't fool me. Men like you never fool me. How are your parents, Luke? How are Oliver and Rose? Do they know the truth about you--your family, your friends, your colleagues? How about that little girlfriend of yours, or is she too stupid to see? She looks really fucking stupid, but she'll find out soon enough. And Women are nothing to you, are we Luke? We're just here for your convenience, to fuck, to step over, to use, or to bully. We're disposable. You think you're untouchable, you think you've got away with it. Think again, Luke. Then, What will they say about you at your funeral, Luke? Say your goodbyes, it's going to be soon. The very last one had been sent only a few days before. I'm coming for you Luke, I'll be seeing you. It had been a woman, all this time? And he'd known about it for months, had known but hadn't told her--had never even mentioned the e-mails. Did he know who it was? It was clearly someone who knew him very well--knew his parents' names, where Luke worked; knew his movements intimately. Was it the same person who had broken into their flat, sent the photographs, the letters? Perhaps it was a joke, she thought wildly. An elaborate prank dreamed up by one of his friends. But then, where was he? Where was Luke? I'm coming for you, Luke. I'll be seeing you. She was deep in thought when the sound of her intercom sliced through the silence, making her jump violently, her heart shooting to her mouth. Three Cambridgeshire, 1986 We waited such a long time for a baby. Years and years, actually. They couldn't tell us why, the specialists. Couldn't find a single reason why it didn't happen for Doug and me. "Unexplained infertility" was the best they could come up with. You think it's going to be so simple, starting a family, and then when it's taken from you, the future you'd imagined snatched away, it feels like a death. All I ever wanted was to be a mum. When school friends went off to university or found themselves jobs down in London, I knew it wasn't for me. I didn't want to be a career woman, didn't need a big house and lots of money. I was content with our little cottage in the village I'd grown up in, Doug's building business; I just wanted children, and Doug felt exactly the same way. I used to see them when they came back to our village for holidays, those old classmates of mine. And I'd see how they looked at me, with my clothes from the market and my lack of ambition, see the flash of superiority or bewilderment in their eyes when they realized I didn't want to be exactly like them. But I didn't care. I knew that what I wanted would bring me all the happiness I'd need. And then, year by year, woman by woman, things began to change. They began to change. As we all neared our thirties, baby after baby began to make its appearance on those weekend visits. Of course, I'd been trying for a good few years by then, had already had many, many months of disappointment to swallow, but nothing hit me quite as hard as seeing that endless parade of children of the girls I used to go to school with. Because I could see it, in their faces, how it changed them. How overnight the nice clothes and interesting careers and successful husbands that had once defined them became suddenly second place to what they now had. It wasn't the change in them physically, the milk-stained clothes or the tired faces; it wasn't the harassed air of responsibility or the membership in a new club or even the obvious devotion they felt. It was something I saw in their eyes--a new awareness, I suppose--that most hurt me. It seemed to me as though they'd crossed into another dimension where life was fulfilling and meaningful on a level I could never understand. And the jealousy and despair I felt was devastating. Plenty of women, I knew, were happily child free, led perfectly satisfying lives without kids in them, but I wasn't one of them. From as long as I could remember, having a family of my own was all I'd dreamed of. So, when finally, finally, our miracle happened, it was the most amazing, most joyful thing imaginable. That moment when I held Hannah in my arms for the first time was one of pure elation. We loved her so much, Doug and I, right from the beginning. We had sacrificed so much, and waited such a long time for her, such a horribly long time. I don't remember exactly when the first niggling doubts began to stir. I couldn't admit it to myself at first. I put it down to my tiredness, the shock and stress of new motherhood, or a hundred other different things rather than admit the truth. I didn't let on to anyone how worried I was. How frightened. I told myself that she was healthy and she was beautiful and she was ours, and that's all that mattered. And yet, I knew. Somehow I knew even then that there was something not quite right about my daughter. An instinct, of the purest, truest kind, in the way animals sense trouble in their midst. Secretly I would compare her with other babies--at the clinic, or at Mother and Baby clubs, or at the supermarket. I would watch their expressions, their reactions, the ever-changing emotions in their little faces, and then I'd look into Hannah's beautiful big brown eyes and I'd see nothing there. Intelligence, yes--I never feared for her intellect--but rarely emotion. I never felt anything from her. Though I lavished love upon her, it was as though it couldn't reach her, slipping and sliding across the surface of her like water over oilskin. At first, when I finally voiced my concerns to Doug, he'd cheerfully brush them aside. "She's just chilled out, that's all," he'd say. "Let her be, love." And I'd allow myself to be reassured, telling myself he was right, that Hannah was fine and my fears were all in my head. But when she was almost three years old, something happened that even Doug couldn't ignore. I was preparing breakfast in the kitchen while she sat on the floor, playing with a makeshift drum kit of pots and pans and spoons I'd got out to entertain her with. She was hitting one pan repeatedly over and over, the sound ricocheting inside my skull, but just as I was mentally kicking myself for giving them to her, the noise suddenly stopped. "Hannah want biscuit," she announced. "No, darling, not yet," I said, smiling at her. "I'm making porridge. Lovely porridge! Be ready in a tick!" She got up, said louder, "Hannah want biscuit now!" "No, sweetheart," I said more firmly. "Breakfast first, just wait." I crouched down to rummage in a low drawer for a bowl, and didn't hear her come up behind me. When I turned, I felt a sudden searing pain in my eye and reeled backward in shock. It took a few moments to realize what had happened, to understand that she'd smashed the end of her metal spoon into my eye with a strength I'd never dreamed she had. And through my reeling horror I saw, just for a second, her reaction: the flash of satisfaction on her face before she turned away. I had to take her with me to the hospital, Doug not being due back for several hours yet. I have no idea whether the nurse in A and E believed my story, or whether she saw through my flimsy excuses and assumed me perhaps to be a battered wife, just another victim of a drunken domestic row. If she did guess at my shame and fear, she never commented. And all the while, Hannah watched her dress my wounds, listened to the lies I told about walking into a door, with a silent lack of interest. Later that evening when she was in bed, Doug and I stared at each other across the kitchen table. "She's not even three yet," he said, his face ashen. "She's just a little girl. She didn't know what she was doing. . . ." "She knew," I told him. "She knew exactly what she was doing. And afterward she barely raised an eyebrow, just went back to hitting those damn pots like nothing had happened." And after that, Hannah only got worse. All children hurt other kids; it happens all the time. In every playgroup across the country, you'll find them hitting or biting or thumping one another. But they do it out of temper, or because the other child hurt them, or to get the toy they want. They don't do it the way Hannah did--for the sheer, premeditated pleasure of it. I used to watch her like a hawk and I'd see her do it, see the expression in her eyes as she looked quickly around herself before inflicting a pinch or a slap. The reaction of pain was what motivated her. I knew it. I saw it. We took her to the doctor's, insisting on a referral to a child psychologist--the three of us trooping over to Peterborough to meet a man with an earnest smile and a gentle voice, in a red jumper, named Neil. But though he did his best with Hannah, inviting her to draw him pictures of her feelings, use dolls to act out stories, she refused point-blank. "No!" she said, pushing crayons and toys away. "Don't want to." "Look," Neil said, once the receptionist had taken Hannah out of the room. "She's very young. Children act out sometimes. It's entirely possible she didn't realize how badly she would hurt you." He paused, fixing me in his sympathetic gaze. "You also mentioned a lack of affection from her, a lack of . . . emotional response. Sometimes children model what they see from their parents. And sometimes it helps if the parent remembers that they are the adult, and the child is not there to fulfill their own emotional needs." He said all this very kindly, very sensitively, but my fury was instantaneous. "I cuddle that child all day long," I hissed, ignoring Doug's restraining hand on my arm. "I talk to her, play with her, kiss her, and love her, and I tell her how special she is every single minute. And I don't expect my three-year-old to 'fulfill my emotional needs.' What kind of idiot do you think I am?" But the seed was set; the implication was clear. By hook or by crook it was my fault. And deep down, of course, I worried that Neil was right. That I was deficient somehow, that I had caused this, whatever "this" was. We left that psychologist's office and we didn't go back. That day, the day she killed Lucy, I stood looking in at my five-year-old daughter from her bedroom door, and any last remaining hope I'd had--that I'd been wrong about her, that she'd grow out of it, that somewhere inside her was a normal, healthy little girl--vanished. I marched across the room and took her by the hand. "Come with me," I said, and led her to my bedroom. Her expression, biddable, mildly interested, only made my fury stronger. I dragged her to the bed and she stood beside me, looking down at Lucy's head on my pillow, and I saw--I know I saw--the flicker of enjoyment in her eyes. By the time she'd turned them back to me, they were entirely innocent once more. "Mummy?" she said. "It was you," I said, my voice tight with anger. "I know it was you." I loved that bird. I had inherited her from an elderly neighbor I'd once been close to, and during those years of childlessness, Lucy had become the focus of all my attention, a pretty, defenseless little creature to take care of, who needed me. Hannah knew how much I loved her. She knew. "No," she answered, and tilted her head to one side as she continued to consider me. "No, Mummy. It wasn't me." I left her standing by the bed and ran downstairs to the kitchen. And there was Lucy's cage, its door swung open, the headless body lying on the floor beside it cold and stiff. I looked around the room, my eyes darting wildly about. How had she done it? What had she used? She had no access to the kitchen knives, of course. Suddenly a thought struck me and I ran back up the stairs to her bedroom. And there it was. The metal ruler from Doug's toolbox, lying on her table. I'd heard her asking him for it the day before--for something she was making, she'd said. It lay there now, next to her craft things, and I stared down at it as nausea rose in me. I hadn't heard Hannah follow me from the kitchen until she slipped into the room and stood beside me. "Mummy?" she said. My heart jumped. "What?" Her eyes fell to my belly. "Is it all right?" The slight lisp, that pretty, melodic voice of hers, so adorable--everybody commented on it. I bit back my revulsion. "What?" I asked. "Is what all right?" She considered me. "The baby, Mummy. The little baby in your tummy. Is it all right? Or is it dead too?" I put a hand to my belly as defensively as if she'd struck me there. Her gaze bored into me. "Why would the baby be dead?" I whispered. "Why would you say that?" There's no way she could have known, of course, that she'd touched upon my greatest fear--that this new baby, our second miracle, would not survive, would not be born alive. It was the stress of my relationship with Hannah that caused this paranoia, I think. I almost felt as though I would deserve it, because I'd made such a mess of everything with her. My unborn baby would be taken from me, as penance. As I gazed into her eyes, fear stroked the back of my neck. "Stay right here," I said. "Stay here until I say." That night I described to Doug what had happened. "What are we going to do?" I asked him. "What the hell are we going to do?" "We don't know it was Hannah," he said weakly. "Well, who the hell was it, then?" "Maybe . . . God, I don't know! Maybe it was a fox, or one of the neighbors' kids mucking about?" "Don't be ridiculous!" "We have foxes in the garden all the time," he said. "Are you sure the back door was closed?" "Well, no," I admitted, "it was open. But . . ." "We've had to tell Hannah before about leaving the cage door unfastened," he added. This was also true: she loved to feed Lucy, and though she knew she wasn't allowed to open the door without me there, it was possible she had fiddled with the latch. "Okay, but what about what she said about the baby?" I demanded. Doug rubbed his face tiredly. "She's five years old, Beth. She doesn't understand about death yet, does she? Maybe she's feeling anxious about having a new sibling." I stared at him. "I can't believe you're saying this! I know it was Hannah. It was written all over her face!" "Well, where were you?" he said, his voice rising too. "Where the hell were you when all this was going on? Why weren't you watching her?" "Don't you dare make this my fault," I shouted. "Don't you dare do that!" On we argued, our worry and distress causing us to turn on each other, sniping and defensive. "Mummy? Daddy?" Hannah appeared in the doorway, looking sleepy and adorable in her pink pajamas. She held her teddy in her hand. "Why are you shouting?" Doug got to his feet. "Hello, little one," he said, his voice suddenly jolly. "How's my princess? Got a cuddle for your daddy?" She nodded and edged closer, but then said in a small, sad voice, "Is it because of Lucy?" Doug and I exchanged a look. He picked her up. "You know how it happened?" She shook her head. "Mummy thinks I did it, but I never did! Mummy loves her birdie and so do I." Tears welled, then spilled from her eyes. "I would never, ever hurt Lu-Lu bird." Doug held her close. "I know you wouldn't, of course you wouldn't. It was just somebody playing a nasty trick, that's all. Or a fox. Maybe a naughty fox did it. Come on, little one, don't cry, please don't cry. Let's get you back to bed." I knew that he was fooling himself, too scared to admit the truth, but I'd never felt so lonely, so wretched, as I did at that moment. As they left the kitchen, I looked up and caught Hannah watching me over her father's shoulder, her expression impassive now. We held each other's gaze before they turned the corner and disappeared from view. Excerpted from The Lies We Told by Camilla Way All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.