She Lies In Wait / Gytha Lodge
Monday, March 4, 2019 at 11:23AM
Dark Scribe Magazine in Book Reviews

Random House / January 2019
Reviewed by: Vince A. Liaguno

Lodge’s debut thriller—the first of a proposed series—centers on an ill-fated camping trip and its shattering aftermath. It’s a hot summer night in July of 1983 when seven high school friends go deep into the woods camping in southeast England. There’s booze and drugs, some sexual hook-ups and at least one unrequited love. By morning, one of the group—Aurora Jackson, the youngest—has disappeared without a trace. Despite the teens calling for help and a massive and exhaustive police-led volunteer search—complete with cadaver dogs—the young girl is never found.

Flash forward thirty-odd years later and a random discovery leads to Aurora’s bones being unearthed in a secret concave hideaway only the six friends knew about near the campsite where she disappeared. Enter Detective Chief Inspector Jonah Sheens, who was an upstart policeman when Aurora first went missing. He’s assigned to the cold case-now-warmed with his investigative team that includes Detective Constable Juliette Hanson, the newest member of the team, Detective Sergeant Domnall O’Malley, and Detective Constable Ben Lightman. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that Sheens knew the teens, at least peripherally, from high school. Suffice to say that secrets abound as DCI Sheens and his team wade through a convoluted web of misdirection and a decades-old conspiracy of silence amongst the group of friends, now marvelously flawed adults.

Lodge chooses to tell her tale from the perspectives of multiple characters along the way, but the narrative is primarily arranged in alternating chapters between the present-day investigation as seen through the eyes of Sheen and that fateful first night in the woods told through Aurora’s point of view. Lodge does an excellent job of presenting her modest suspect list as a series of engrossing character studies of the surviving teens—each grappling with the psychological aftereffects of that fateful night in light of its present-day outcome, long-suppressed memories that have proven unreliable with the passage of time, and petty resentments not uncommon in groups of lifelong friends.  

Fans of police procedurals will delight in the abundance of suspect interrogations, as well as the interactions and debriefings amongst Sheens’ team that provide a glimpse into the inner workings of such law enforcement machines. Lodge’s plotting is intricate and, more importantly for mystery lovers, holds together in terms of logic even through the requisite twists and turns and red herrings, all of which are competently executed here. She misfires—albeit slightly—with two subplots involving Sheens and Hanson that feel wholly unnecessary to the larger narrative but one should take this minor criticism with a grain of salt in consideration that She Lies In Wait is a series launch.

She Lies In Wait will likely appeal to both thriller fans and those mystery lovers who relish a worthwhile whodunit. Lodge creates a sympathetic—tragic, even—victim in Aurora Jackson and readers may (surprisingly) find themselves welling up with emotion in the novel’s beautifully executed closing paragraphs. DCI Sheens and crew are likable and interesting enough—Lightman, especially, leaves me wanting to know more—to warrant further adventure, even if Lodge’s suspects may not elicit much sympathy from readers over the course of this first murder mystery.

Purchase She Lies In Wait by Gytha Lodge.

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