Desert Isle Keeper
Lie Beside Me
Lie Beside Me is the third book in the DCI Jonah Sheens police procedural series. You do not need to have read the others to enjoy this one.
At an acquaintance’s wedding five years earlier, Louise Reakes made three startling discoveries. One, she could make exciting new friends. Glamorous, irreverent April sat next to her during the ceremony and the two have been besties ever since. Two, she could find love. Louise met her future husband Niall at the reception and the they quickly become a couple. The third discovery was the most important, though. She couldn’t do any of that without a drink in her hand.
Now Louise thinks of herself as two unique people – fun, vivacious Drunk Louise, who’s always good for a laugh, and over whom she has no control, and Louise, the sober iteration of herself, who gets blamed and berated by Niall for everything Drunk Louise does. So, she isn’t exactly surprised when she wakes up in the wee hours of the morning next to a dead man who is most definitely not her husband. Louise just wishes she could remember what exactly Drunk Louise had done.
A bit later that morning, DCI Jonah Sheens and his team are called to the crime scene at Louise’s house where she tells them she was picking up the milk from her doorstep when she found a dead body in her front yard. Jonah’s constable, Juliette Hanson, sits with and soothes the seemingly shaken Louise while Jonah joins the forensic team and sends out Ben Lightmen and Domnall O’Malley to question the neighbors. Once forensics has finished up, Jonah heads in to talk to his witness. She, of course, heard nothing, saw nothing, knows nothing.
But it doesn’t take more than a few hours of digging into victim Alex Plaskitt’s life to realize Louise is lying, and Jonah and his team quickly move to take her into custody. But now that they know the who, the question plaguing Jonah is why? Because nothing about what happened makes sense and he has only a few more hours to put together the case against Louise and discover the reason she murdered a man before he has to let her go.
The book is written from two differing perspectives. Jonah and his team are featured in the chapters written in third person omniscient which follows them as they do the grunt work necessary to solve the case. The author fluctuates between giving us small details about their personal lives and taking us through the banality of what they do: paper/computer work, the endless questioning of witnesses, following up on each miniscule lead, and spending hours driving from one point to another. We learn that Juliette is still being stalked by her abusive ex, something she has shared with no one but Ben. She and the gorgeous but enigmatic Ben had been good pals once but there has recently been a strain to their relationship, and Juliette can’t help but wonder if it has something to do with the new young man she’s been seeing. Juliette thinks about asking Ben about it, but he’s a vault, and she knows she’s unlikely to get an honest, satisfactory answer out of him. Jonah is having ex problems as well. He made the mistake of reconnecting with a woman from his past several months before, one he definitely wants to put behind him, but she’s suddenly calling him endlessly and he’s not quite sure how to handle it. Jonah is sure he doesn’t want his new to love to know that his ex is hovering.
Louise is having problems with the past, too. She hates that she ever let Drunk Louise into her life, and she hates even more that Drunk Louise steals her memories. Louise’s chapters are told in a first-person perspective, in the form of a long missive she is sending to her husband, whom she now believes to be a passive-aggressive jerk (he is). These sections deal with how her sober self is trying to piece together how she landed in a prison cell facing a murder charge and how to take back her memories from wherever Drunk Louise has hidden them. They also deal with how April, her primary drinking buddy, has a habit of disappearing just when either Louise, drunk or sober, needs her most.
The author does a fantastic job of handling innumerable characters and giving them all depth. Not only do we learn a lot about the members of Jonah’s team and what is happening in their lives, but we also get a clear picture of our victim, Alex, the people in his life and Louise, April and Niall. I’m always impressed with how Lodge takes a police procedural, which as its name implies is all about the process of solving a crime, and turns it into a deeply character driven narrative. She brilliantly shows us how much personality affects both the execution and the resolution of a transgression.
The pacing here is closer to true life than that of most mysteries. We get a glimpse of how tedious a lot of police work is and how much you have to love figuring out the puzzle to be able to stick with it. We don’t race from event to event but rather sit back and put pieces together to get the whole picture.
As always, once the last piece is slotted in, we discover a far different scene than what we expected. Lodge takes us on a compelling journey, a ride of revelations and analysis and showing how our image of an entire event can be changed by just one more piece of information. Everything is brought to a very satisfactory – and surprising – conclusion.
Lie Beside Me lacks the excitement and pizzazz of a lot of today’s thrillers but it is an extremely interesting, well-written, character-driven mystery that I would strongly recommend to fans of that genre. While you don’t need to start with the first book, She Lies in Wait, I would recommend doing so if you can. It’s a good story in its own right and one that does provide some additional – unnecessary but nice to have- background information about the investigative team.