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Lies Behind the Ruins by Helen Matthews

I recently read Lies Behind the Ruins by Helen Matthews. I had enjoyed all the previous books by her that I had read, so I thought this one was a safe bet.

The Blurb

How can you build a new life on toxic foundations?

When single mum, Emma marries her second husband, Paul, she imagines her dark days are behind her. Until a fatal accident happens at Paul’s workplace and he is held responsible.

Paul’s behaviour turns erratic. On holiday in France, he impulse-buys a dilapidated property and insists the family move abroad to escape their problems. Emma must make a heart-breaking choice between her son and daughter.

Striving to build a new life in France, Emma is unaware of secrets and lies threatening her family’s safety. Someone wants revenge and Emma’s daughter, Mollie, is easy prey.

Can Emma unearth the truth in time to save her daughter and herself?

The Review

The plot of Lies Behind the Ruins involves the move of a British family to and a village in France, after their lives in England fall apart in difficult circumstances. The details of French life, customs, and bureaucracy are exquisitly included and this lends a depth of interest to the story. The author also deal with the uncertainty of the Brexit vote, which is cleverly handled. It adds questions that they cannot control into the characters' lives and this parallels the uncertainty of their lives together.

The perspectives of husband and wife is a device that works well. It doesn't only increase the intrigue as the "lies" of the title mount up and the stakes become higher and higher, it also gives the reader an understanding of the characters' individual psychologies, and explains why each has only a partial understanding of the truth within their own lives.

In the village a number of other well drawn characters live and these include a character who is not what she seems, and who gives the main impetus to the suspense. This increases toward the end in increasingly dark ways.

Truly, Lies Behind the Ruins has everything I'm looking for in a good psychological thriller. It has a gripping plot with the right amount of tension, an intriguing backdrop full of compelling detail, and characters whose dilemmas are so real they feel like your own struggles.

The structure of the narrative, with the wife and husband alternating points of view, offers so much detail about a dream many people have about starting over and moving to France. Most of us will never make such a bold move but this family’s journey is so relatable in their love for their children and the way we all struggle to do our best for our kids. It is just not as easy as they had hoped.

This is an excellent story that I heartily recommend.

The Author

I write page-turning psychological suspense and suspense thrillers and I'm fascinated by the darker side of human nature and how a life can change in an instant. My latest release is domestic suspense, 'Lies Behind the Ruin' (2nd edition) set in France and is out this month. It's about a family whose problems at home in the UK threaten to overwhelm them so they try to outrun them by moving to France to renovate a 'ruin' and make a fresh start. But secrets and lies from the past pursue them because, after all, how can you build a new life on toxic foundations?

Previous novels include 'Girl Out of Sight', a chilling suspense thriller about human trafficking and 'Facade' twisty noir about tragedy, guilt and revenge in a family where 'silence echoes louder than truth'. These novels are published by Darkstroke Books.

From the same publisher my psychological suspense mystery 'The Girl in the Van' was the winner of the suspense and trhiller genre prize in the prestigious 2022 Pageturner Book Awards. It's a chilling page-turner that touches on serious and complex themes including individual grief and vulnerability, as well as societal responsibilities towards the disadvantaged and dispossessed. According to an advance reader "It manages to be both thought-provoking and thrilling - no mean feat."

I've been appointed an ambassador for the charity Unseen UL which fights against the scourge of modern slavery and human trafficking. I'm available to give talks at festivals, author events and to local groups about the themes in my novel.

I'd love to know what you think, so please leave a review.

My short story and travel writing collection Brief Encounters is available as an eBook and includes many prize winning and short-listed stories. Take a look at my website over on where you'll also find my contact details and can tell me what you loved - or hated - about my novels.

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