In a dark, dark wood
In summer 1990, Caroline and Joanna are sent to stay with their great-aunt to spend their holidays in a sunlit village near the Forest of Dean. The countryside is a welcome change from the drama they know back home in the city, but in the shadowy woods at the edge of the forest hide secrets that will bring their innocence to a distressing end.
There was a dark, dark house
Years later, a shocking act of violence sends Joanna back to Witchwood. In her great-aunt’s lonely and dilapidating cottage, she will attempt to unearth the secrets of that terrifying summer and comes to terms with the haunting effects it has left on her life. But will she be able to survive the impending danger from those trying to bury the truth?
Atmospheric and eerie, Rebecca Griffiths’ second novel, A Place to Lie, oozes gothic vibes whilst creating a contemporary mystery set amidst a brooding village.
Behind the seeming peace of the rural village of Witchwood, and the petty frustrations and rivalries of an everyday small village mentality, dark secrets lie. Secrets that, inadvertently, sisters Caroline and Joanne stumble across at the end of one idyllic summer, and that will shatter their world apart.
Years later, following a shocking act of violence, Joanna is slowly drawn back to Witchwood. As the novel progresses, we alternate between that seemingly idyllic summer and her gradual realisation of the truth. This alternation between past and present works really well in what is a slow-burn of a thriller. The majority of the action and drama takes place in the past scenes, which are nicely contrasted with Joanna’s gradual unravelling of the significance of these events in the present.
I found the relationship between the sisters Caroline and Joanna really interesting. Without giving away any spoilers, they have become estranged in their adult lives as a result of the events that took place 13 years ago. Caroline has also developed quite complex mental-health problems, and I felt that these were explored really well, as was the resultant impact that this had on her relationship with her sister and her past.
The other characters are, admittedly, a little less well-drawn but no less so than in many thrillers of this kind. And this is more than compensated for by the wonderfully brooding atmosphere of Witchwood village and the woods surrounding it, which ooze lush gothic vibes and create a real sense of setting and place that drives the more sedate moments in the action or in the character development.
The pacing of A Place to Lie is quite sedate, with quite a gradual introduction of characters and events, leading to Joanna’s eventual return to Witchwood about two thirds into the novel. That isn’t to say that the book is compelling but the twisty, atmospheric mystery created here is closer to Daphne Du Maurier than Gillian Flynn, with shades of the domestic noir found in the latter combining nicely with the gothic brooding of the former.
A Place to Lie is a well-crafted, atmospheric rural mystery, with some genuinely shocking twists and a creeping sense of paranoia and fear that is sure to make its way onto many thriller fans’ TBR piles this summer.
A Place to Lie by Rebecca Griffiths is published by Sphere and is available now in paperback and ebook from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, Book Depository, and Amazon.
My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me to take part in this tour. The tour continues until 01 September so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content!