Lying in Wait

A Novel

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About The Book

“An extraordinary novel. Lying in Wait crackles and snaps like a bonfire on a winter’s night; you shudder even as you draw closer to it. Spellbinding.” —A.J. Finn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Window

From the international bestselling author of Unraveling Oliver, an “unputdownable psychological thriller with an ending that lingers long after turning the final page” (The Irish Times) about a Dublin family whose dark secrets and twisted relationships are suddenly revealed.

My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.

On the surface, Lydia Fitzsimons has the perfect life—wife of a respected, successful judge, mother to a beloved son, mistress of a beautiful house in Dublin. That beautiful house, however, holds a secret. And when Lydia’s son, Laurence, discovers its secret, wheels are set in motion that lead to an increasingly claustrophobic and devastatingly dark climax.

For fans of Ruth Ware and Gillian Flynn, this novel is a “seductively sinister story. The twists come together in a superbly scary denouement, which delivers a final sting in the tail. Brilliantly macabre” (Sunday Mirror).

Excerpt

Lying in Wait ONE LYDIA
My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it. After we had overcome the initial shock, I tried to stop him speaking of her. I did not allow it unless to confirm alibis or to discuss covering up any possible evidence. It upset him too much and I thought it best to move on as if nothing had happened. Even though we did not talk about it, I couldn’t help going over the events of the night in my mind, each time wishing that some aspect, some detail, could be different, but facts are facts and we must get used to them.

It was the fourteenth of November 1980. It had all been arranged. Not her death, just the meeting to see if she was genuine, and if not, to get our money back. I walked the Strand for twenty minutes to ensure that there was nobody around, but I needn’t have worried. The beach was deserted on that particularly bitter night. When I was satisfied that I was alone, I went to the bench and waited. A cruel wind rushed in with the waves and I pulled my cashmere coat around me and turned up the collar. Andrew arrived promptly and parked not far from where I was seated, as instructed. I watched from thirty yards away. I had told him to confront her. And I wanted to see her for myself, to assess her suitability. They were supposed to get out of the car and walk past me. But they didn’t. After waiting ten minutes, I got up and walked toward the car, wondering what was taking so long. As I got closer, I could hear raised voices. And then I saw them fighting. The passenger door swung open and she tried to get out. But he pulled her back toward him. I could see his hands around her throat. I watched her struggle, mesmerized momentarily, wondering if I could be imagining things, and then I came back to myself, snapped out of my confusion, and ran to the car.

“Stop! Andrew! What are you doing?” My voice was shrill to my own ears, and her eyes swiveled toward me in shock and terror before they rolled back upward into her head.

He released her immediately, and she fell backward, gurgling. She was almost but not quite dead, so I grabbed the steering-wheel lock from the footwell at her feet and smashed it down onto her skull, just once. There was blood and a little twitching and then absolute stillness.

I’m not sure why I did that. Instinct?

She looked younger than her twenty-two years. I could see past the lurid makeup, the dyed-black hair, almost navy. There was a jagged white scar running from a deformed top lip to the septum of her nose. I wondered that Andrew had never thought to mention that. Her jacket had been pulled off one arm during the struggle, and I saw bloodied scabs in the crook of her elbow. There was a sarcastic expression on her face, a smirk that death could not erase. I like to think I did the girl a kindness, like putting an injured bird out of its misery. She did not deserve such kindness.

Andrew has always had a short fuse, blowing up at small, insignificant things and then, almost immediately, becoming remorseful and calm. This time, however, he was hysterical, crying and screaming fit to wake the dead.

“Oh Christ! Oh Jesus!” he kept saying, as if the son of God could fix anything. “What have we done?”

“We?” I was aghast. “You killed her!”

“She laughed at me! You were right about her. She said I was an easy touch. That she’d go to the press. She was going to blackmail me. I lost my temper. But you . . . you finished it, she might have been all right . . .”

“Don’t even . . . don’t say that, you fool, you idiot!”

His face was wretched, tormented. I felt sympathy for him. I told him to pull himself together. We needed to get home before Laurence did. I ordered him to help me get the body into the trunk. Through his tears, he carried out my instructions. Infuriatingly, his golf clubs were in there, unused for the last year, taking up most of the space, but luckily the corpse was as slight and slim as I had suspected, and still flexible, so we managed to stuff her in.

“What are we going to do with her?”

“I don’t know. We have to calm down. We’ll figure it out tomorrow. We need to go home now. What do you know about her? Does she have family? Who will be looking for her?”

“I don’t know. . . . She . . . I think she might have mentioned a sister?”

“Right now nobody knows she is dead. Nobody knows she is missing. We need to keep it like that.”

When we got home to Avalon at quarter past midnight, I could see by the shadow from his window that the bedside light was on in Laurence’s bedroom. I had really wanted to be there when he got home, to hear how his evening had been. I told Andrew to pour us a brandy while I went to check on our son. He was sprawled across the bed and didn’t stir when I ruffled his hair and kissed his forehead. “Good night, Laurence,” I whispered, but he was fast asleep. I turned out his lamp, closed his bedroom door, and went to the bathroom cabinet for a Valium before I went downstairs. I needed to be calm.

Andrew was trembling all over. “Jesus, Lydia, we’re in serious trouble. Maybe we should call the police.”

I topped off his glass and drained the bottle into my own. He was in shock.

“And ruin Laurence’s life forever? Tomorrow is a new day. We’ll deal with it then, but we must remember Laurence, whatever happens. He mustn’t know anything.”

“Laurence? What has it to do with him? What about Annie? Oh God, we killed her, we murdered her. We’re going to prison.”

I was not going to prison. Who would look after Laurence? I stroked his arm in an effort to comfort him. “We will figure it out tomorrow. Nobody saw us. Nobody can connect us with the girl. She would have been too ashamed to tell anyone what she was up to. We just have to figure out where to put her body.”

“You’re sure nobody saw us?”

“There wasn’t a soul on the Strand. I walked the length of it to make sure. Go to bed, love. Things will be better tomorrow.”

He looked at me as if I were insane.

I stared him down. “I’m not the one who strangled her.”

Tears poured down his cheeks. “But maybe if you hadn’t hit her . . .”

“What? She would have died more slowly? Or been permanently brain damaged?”

“We could have said that we’d found her like that!”

“Do you want to drive back there now and dump her, call an ambulance from a pay phone, and explain what you are doing there on the Strand at one o’clock in the morning?”

He looked into the bottom of his glass.

“But what are we going to do?”

“Go to bed.”

As we ascended the stairs, I heard the whir of the washing machine. I wondered why Laurence had decided to do laundry on a Friday night. It was most unlike him. But it reminded me that my clothes and Andrew’s really needed to be washed too. We both stripped, and I set aside the pile of laundry for the morning. I washed the sand off our shoes and swept the floors we had passed over. I deposited the sand from the dustpan in the back garden, on the raised patch of lawn beyond the kitchen window. I studied the ground for a moment. I had always thought of having a flower bed planted there.

When I slipped into bed later, I put my arms around Andrew’s trembling form, and he turned to me and we made love, clawing at and clinging to each other like survivors of a terrible calamity.

Andrew had been a very good husband until just a year previously. For twenty-one years, our marriage had been solid. Daddy had been very impressed with him. On his deathbed, Daddy had said he was relieved to be leaving me in good hands. Andrew had been Daddy’s apprentice at Hyland & Goldblatt. He had taken Andrew under his wing and made him his protégé. One day, when I was about twenty-five, Daddy had telephoned me at home and told me that we were having a special guest for dinner and that I should cook something nice and get my hair done. “No lipstick,” he said. Daddy had a thing about makeup. “I can’t stand those painted trollops!” he would say about American film stars. Daddy’s views could be extreme. “You are my beautiful daughter. No point in gilding a lily.”

I was curious about this visitor and why I should dress up for him. I should have guessed, of course, that Daddy was intent on matchmaking. He needn’t have worried. Andrew adored me right away. He went to enormous lengths to charm me. He said that he would do anything for me. “I can’t stop looking at you,” he said. And indeed, his eyes followed me everywhere. He always called me his prize, his precious jewel. I loved him too. My father always knew what was best for me.

Our courtship was short and very sweet. Andrew came from a good family. His late father had been a consultant pediatrician, and though I found his mother a little contrary, she raised no objections to our relationship. After all, when Andrew married me, he would get Avalon too—a five-bedroom detached Georgian house on an acre of land in Cabinteely, South County Dublin. Andrew wanted us to get a house of our own when we got married, but Daddy put his foot down. “You’ll move in here. This is Lydia’s home. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

So Andrew moved in with us, and Daddy gave up the master bedroom and moved to the large bedroom on the other side of the hallway. Andrew grumbled a little to me. “But, darling, don’t you see how awkward it is? I’m living with my boss!” And I admit that Daddy did order Andrew around quite a lot, but Andrew got used to it quickly. I think he knew how lucky he was.

Andrew did not mind that I did not want to host parties or socialize with other couples. He said he was quite happy to keep me to himself. He was kind and generous and considerate. He usually backed away from confrontation, so we did not have many arguments. In a heated moment, he might kick or throw inanimate objects, but I think everyone does that from time to time. And he was always terribly contrite afterward.

Andrew worked his way up through the ranks until finally all his time on the golf course paid off, and three years ago, he was appointed as a judge in the criminal courts. He was a respected member of society. People listened to him when he spoke and quoted him in the newspapers. He was widely regarded as having the voice of reason on matters legal and judicial.

But last year, Paddy Carey, his old pal, accountant and golfing partner, had left the country with our money. I thought that, at the very least, Andrew would be careful with our finances. That was the husband’s job, to be a provider and to look after the economic well-being of the household. But he had trusted Paddy Carey with everything and Paddy had fooled us all. We were left with nothing but debts and liabilities, and Andrew’s generous salary barely covered our expenditure.

Had I married badly after all? My role was to be presentable, beautiful, charming—a homemaker, a companion, a good cook, a lover, and a mother. A mother.

Andrew suggested selling some land to developers to raise capital. I was horrified at the suggestion. Nobody of our status would do such a thing. I had spent my whole life in Avalon. My father had inherited it from his father, and it was the house in which I was born. And the house in which my sister died. I was not going to compromise on selling any part of Avalon. Nor was I going to compromise on the money we needed to pay the girl.

But we had to take Laurence out of the hideously expensive Carmichael Abbey and send him to St. Martin’s instead. It broke my heart. I knew he was unhappy there. I knew he was victimized because of his class and accent, but the money simply wasn’t there. Andrew quietly sold some of the family silver to pay our debts, and we kept the wolf at bay. He could not risk being declared bankrupt, as he would have been forced to resign from the bench. We had never lived extravagantly, but the few luxuries that were normal to us began to disappear. He gave up his golf club membership but insisted that he could still pay my store account at Switzer’s and Brown Thomas. He always hated to disappoint me.

But now this? A dead girl in the trunk of the car in the garage. I was sorry she was dead, but I can’t honestly say I wouldn’t or couldn’t have strangled her myself under the circumstances. We just wanted our money back. I couldn’t stop thinking about the scars on the girl’s inner arm. I had seen a documentary about heroin addicts on the BBC, and reports of a heroin epidemic were in our newspapers. It seemed obvious that she had injected our money into her bloodstream, as if our needs and wants hadn’t mattered.

As Andrew slept fitfully, whimpering and crying out occasionally, I made plans.

The next morning, a Saturday, Laurence slept late. I warned Andrew to say as little as possible. He readily agreed. He was hollow-eyed, and there was a tremor in his voice that never quite went away after that night. He and Laurence had always had a fraught relationship, so they were not inclined to be conversational. I planned to get Laurence out of the house for the day, send him into town on some errand or other while Andrew buried the girl in our garden. Andrew was shocked that we would bury her here, but I made him see that, this way, she could not be discovered. We were in control of our own property. Nobody had access without our permission. Our large rear garden was not overlooked. I knew exactly the spot where she could be buried. In my childhood there had been an ornamental pond under the plane tree beyond the kitchen window, but Daddy had filled it in after my sister’s death. Its stone borders, which had lain under the soil for almost forty years, were conveniently grave-like.

After Andrew had buried the body, he could clean out and vacuum the car until there would be no trace of fibers or fingerprints. I was determined to take all precautions. Andrew knew from his job the kind of thing that could incriminate a person. Nobody had seen us on the Strand, but one can never be too sure of anything.

When Laurence arrived at the breakfast table, he had a noticeable limp. I tried to be cheerful. “So how are you today, sweetie?” Andrew stayed behind his Irish Times, but I could see his knuckles gripped it tightly to stop it from shaking.

“My ankle hurts. I tripped going upstairs last night.”

I examined his ankle quickly. It was very swollen and probably sprained. This thwarted my plans to send him into town. But I could still contain my boy, confine him to quarters, so to speak. I wrapped his ankle and instructed him to stay on the sofa all day. That way, I could keep an eye on him, keep him away from the rear of the house, where the burial was to take place. Laurence was not an active boy, so lying on the sofa watching television all day and having food delivered to him on a tray was no hardship to him at all.

As dusk fell, when everything had been done, Andrew lit a bonfire. I don’t know what he was burning, but I had impressed upon him the need to get rid of all evidence. “Think of it as one of your court cases—what kinds of things betray the lie? Be thorough!” To give him his due, he was thorough.

However, Laurence is a smart boy. He is intuitive, like me, and he noted his father’s dark mood. Andrew was snappy about wanting to see the television news, terrified, I suppose, that the girl would feature. She did not. He claimed he had the flu and went to bed early. When I went upstairs later, he was throwing things into a suitcase.

“What are you doing?”

“I can’t bear it. I have to get away.”

“Where? Where are you going to go? We can’t change anything now. It’s too late.”

He turned on me then for the first time, spitting with anger.

“It’s all your fault! I’d never have met her if it wasn’t for you. I should never have started this. It was a crazy idea to begin with, but you wouldn’t stop, you were obsessed! You put too much pressure on me. I’m not the type of man to . . .” He trailed off because he was exactly the type of man to strangle a girl, as it happens. He just didn’t know it until now. Also, my plan had been perfect. He was the one who ruined it.

“I told you to pick a healthy girl. Didn’t you see the marks on her arms? She was a heroin addict. Don’t you remember that documentary? You must have noticed her arms.”

He broke down into sobs and collapsed on the bed, and I cradled his head in mine to muffle the sound. Laurence mustn’t hear. When the heaving of his shoulders had subsided, I upended the contents of the suitcase and put it back on top of the wardrobe.

“Put your things away. We are not going anywhere. We will carry on as normal. This is our home and we are a family. Laurence, you, and I.”

Reading Group Guide

This readers group guide for Lying in Wait includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.

Lydia Fitzsimons appears to have the perfect life: she makes her home with her successful husband and adored son in the beloved mansion that has been in her family for generations. But beneath the surface, there is one thing Lydia yearns for to make her perfect life complete—and she’s willing to do anything to get what she wants.

But Lydia’s son, Laurence, is not as naïve as she thinks. When he starts to unravel the secret that lies in the garden behind their beautiful house, he sets wheels in motion that lead to an increasingly claustrophobic and devastatingly dark climax.

Topics and Questions for Discussion

1. From the start of the book, we know respected judge Andrew Fitzsimons and his wife, Lydia, have murdered Annie Doyle. How does this narration style, starting with such a shocking event, affect your understanding of the story? How did you react to the first chapter?

2. Would things have turned out differently for Annie if she had been the pretty sister? Why or why not?

3. Lydia often says that everything she does is for Laurence, for his protection and his benefit. What are Lydia’s true motivations?

4. Consider each of the parent-child relationships in the book. Which parents are good parents in your opinion? How would things have been different for Laurence if his parents acted more like Bridget’s parents, or like Karen and Annie’s parents, or Helen’s mother?

5. How is Laurence’s sense of self affected by the way he views his father and his father’s death? How does this affect him as an adult?

6. What does Lydia's mother's red lipstick mean to her? Why does she put it on after Laurence tells her about Karen?

7. Dessie is obsessively protective of Karen; he tries to explain this as he fears that Karen will end up like Annie. How does Annie’s reputation continue to haunt her family?

8. How is marriage depicted in the novel? Are any of the marriages happy? Which marriages are affected by divorce being illegal in 1980s Ireland?

9. How is Lydia shaped by her sister’s death and her mother’s downfall? Why are reputations and appearances so important to Lydia?

10. Compare and contrast the two sister dynamics in the book: how are Lydia and Diana similar to Annie and Karen? What does being a sister mean to Karen? What does it mean to Lydia?

11. Lydia assumes all children are closest to their mothers. How does the novel prove or disprove her assumption?

12. What role does class play in Laurence's relationships? How much of that influence is inherited versus learned?

13. Laurence is very self-aware, but it takes him a long time to see his mother clearly. Why do you think that is? Why is it difficult for adult children to see their parents’ flaws?

14. How did you react to the scene after Laurence and Karen's dinner with Lydia, the final events of the novel, and Part Three? Were you surprised by the final revelations?

15. Does Lydia get what she wants? Does she get what she deserves? Does anyone else? Why or why not?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Unraveling Oliver is the author’s first novel, for which she won Best Crime Novel at the 2014 Irish Book Awards. If you haven’t already, go back and read Unraveling Oliver with your book club. Compare and contrast the author’s style and the characters in the two books.

2. In Lying in Wait, we only get to know Annie through others’ memories and what was left behind when she departed. If Annie got a chance to tell her own story, what do you think she would say?

3. Who would you cast in the film version of Lying in Wait? How would you cast the sisters?

4. Learn more about the author by visiting her website (http://www.liznugent.ie/) and following her on Twitter @lizzienugent.

About The Author

Photograph by Beta Bajgartova

Liz Nugent has worked in Irish film, theater, and television for most of her adult life. She is an award-winning writer of radio and television drama and has written critically acclaimed short stories both for children and adults, as well as the novels Unraveling Oliver and Lying in Wait. She lives in Dublin. Visit her at LizNugent.ie or follow her on Twitter at @Lizzienugent.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press (June 2018)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501167775

Raves and Reviews

“An extraordinary novel. Lying in Wait crackles and snaps like a bonfire on a winter’s night; you shudder even as you draw closer to it. Spellbinding.” 

– A.J. Finn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Window

“Taut, crisp, clear, a storm-warning of a book.  It has the eeriness of ‘The Turn of the Screw;’ but as these screws turn, a mighty tension takes hold. Masterly.” 

– Sebastian Barry, author of Days Without End

“A tense, taut, almost gothic thriller…impossible to stop reading.”

– Marian Keyes, New York Times bestselling author

"Like Unraveling Oliver (2017), this is a whydunit, not a whodunit, and the real meat lies in Nugent's exploration of motherhood, mental illness, and what could drive a person to murder...  A page-turner chock full of lies and betrayals and a very creepy mother-son relationship."

– Kirkus Reviews

"A devastating psychological thriller... Lydia is the most intriguing puzzle; equal parts victim and villain, she simultaneously inspires pity, outrage, and horror. The result is an exquisitely uncomfortable, utterly captivating reading experience." 

– Publishers Weekly (starred and boxed review)

"[A] chilling tale of the sociopathic mind… Readers who love sinister psychological thrillers will tear through these pages."

– Library Journal (starred review)

“Nugent introduces an unforgettable cast of characters in this tour de force…astonishing....everyone should grab it the second it appears."  

– Booklist (starred review)

“[A] dark, captivating psychological thriller.”

– PEOPLE

"Truly outstanding."

– Crime by the Book

"Just when you think you have things figured out, Nugent throws everything off-kilter again. All of the primary characters --- including the dead woman, Annie --- are complicated and well-rounded...and defy easy categorization as “villain” or “hero.” Readers who first encountered Nugent’s work only recently will be thrilled with this new-to-us thriller --- and will be thronging for even more of her excellent work to make its way across the pond."

 

– BookReporter

"Though we know Lydia and Andrew Fitzsimmons’ big secret by the end of the first sentence of Nugent’s book, it’s why they did it that initially remains a mystery...The secret may be out, but the intrigue remains."

– Brit + Co

"Nugent tells a brilliant tale—taut, horrifying, chilling...the plot is impossible to resist and the tale is beautifully written...If you like psychological thrillers, “Lying in Wait” is perfect."

– Fredericksburg Freelance Star

"Perfect for those who have already read A Woman in the Window and are looking for a new gripping read."

– The Amazon Book Review

"Liz Nugent, whose debut novel, Unraveling Oliver, earned high critical praise, has upped her game here with a darkly twisted tale of murder, lies and secrets best left buried."

– BookPage

"Electrifying ... a chilling narrative with an unexpected ending that will take your breath away."

– Bustle

“Darkly funny, creepy, and has one of the most disturbing endings I’ve ever read!”

– Robyn Harding, international bestselling author of The Party

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