I’m really delighted today to be joining the blog tour for House of Lies by Terry Lynn Thomas, the third Cat Carlisle mystery, and a book I’ve been really looking forward to. Published by HQ Digital on 4th March, it’s now available for pre-order via Amazon in the UK and US. My thanks to HQ for the invitation to join the tour, and for my advance reading e-copy (provided via netgalley).
Although very different from my usual reading (and perhaps because it’s so different), I’ve become quite addicted to this lovely series. The first book was The Silent Woman – very much the gripping historical fiction the publishers promised, a lovely introduction to the world of espionage and the endearing heroine at the book’s heart: you’ll find my review here, and you might also like to catch up with Terry’s earlier guest post. And then came The Family Secret – and I might just have enjoyed it even more (you’ll find my review here). And now, the third – and I couldn’t wait to dive in…
In a time of war, nowhere is safe…
While World War Two rages, Cat Carlisle runs a women’s refuge to protect beaten wives. But when one of the women is found dead in the woods behind the house, Cat’s world shatters.
Was the killer a violent husband seeking revenge? A secret lover? Or is something more dangerous at play? Because Cat and her fiancé Thomas have a secret: they’re hiding a precious golden chalice, keeping it locked safely away from the plundering Nazis until the war is over. But someone wants that treasure, and no one will be safe until they get it…
Set against a wartime backdrop, this book opens some way away from Rivenby in rural Cumbria, where Cat and Thomas have chosen to make their new life. We find ourselves on a Scottish estate, where Hugh discovers the extent of his errant wife Margaret’s treachery, and is ready to surrender his inheritance to escape from the marriage. Back in Rivenby, Thomas is now working with the constabulary – but still has links with his former life of espionage, having been asked to help with the safe keeping of a chalice coveted by the Nazis and gangland elements alike.
Cat is now providing a safe haven for victims of domestic abuse, securing them training for work and a route to a new life. Meanwhile, a master thief (with more than a passing resemblance to Robin Hood) becomes unfortunately entangled with a gangland boss with a seemingly inescapable reach. So many threads, so many characters – and you wonder how on earth they can in any way be linked or related.
And then, one of Cat’s house guests – who might never have been quite what she seemed – is found in the woods, bludgeoned to death. Just after the wife of that gangland boss fled to safety too – and the two women do look quite alike. Perhaps there’s an obvious culprit? But then again… the different threads and characters draw together, become tangled, and the layers of secrets and intrigue become just deliciously convoluted, the pages turn faster and faster, the red herrings become a shoal, and I had no idea whatsoever where the whole book was going.
It’s gripping and enthralling, with moments of high drama, and the author has a really firm hold of every single strand – incredibly cleverly done, and the intricacies of the planning must have been really something to behold. And just when you think everything is resolved, you let your guard down, and think it might coast towards a happy ending… oh no, we’re off again, and it’s quite wonderfully done.
Desperately trying to avoid spoilers, I was incredibly impressed by some of the characterisation. Cat herself, as always, draws your eye whenever she’s in focus – I really liked the underlying thread of her relationship with Thomas, their flouting of convention, and she’s as irrepressible as ever when DCI Kent (I liked him very much too!) warns her not to interfere in his ongoing investigation. But all the characters are layered and multi-dimensional, even the domestic help – and the focus on the mental health of one particular character is particularly well done.
When I reviewed the author’s last book, I (rather unforgivably really) used the word “cosy”. Not this time – it’s certainly an engrossing mystery with a domestic focus, but also has a palpable undercurrent of threat and real danger that really takes it outside that classification. Should I use that comparison with Foyle’s War – familiar to UK TV viewers – again though? Yes, I think that’s still totally valid. There’s a quintessential Englishness about the whole book, impeccably researched, presented and sustained throughout – a really remarkable achievement for a US author.
And just a small postscript for anyone who might worry about this being the third in a series – other than perhaps understanding the background to Cat and Thomas’ relationship and about a few peripheral characters, nice to know but in no way essential to the plot, this book is totally readable as a standalone. And if you try it, you might just love it as much as I did – I thoroughly enjoyed it, a quite wonderful read.
About the author
Terry Lynn Thomas grew up the San Francisco Bay Area, which explains her love of foggy beaches, windy dunes, and gothic mysteries. When her husband promised to buy Terry a horse and the time to write if she moved to Mississippi with him, she jumped at the chance. Although she had written several novels and screenplays prior to 2006, after she relocated to the South she set out to write in earnest and has never looked back. When she’s not writing, you can find Terry Lynn riding her horse, walking in the woods with her dogs, or visiting old cemeteries in search of story ideas.