OLD SECRETS, INFLUENCERS AND DEADLY DIVES: New novels by Lisa Jewell and Sara Ochs.
Podcasts and influencers have provided fertile ground for crime writers in recent years and now Sara Ochs and Lisa Jewell both dive into the dark world of social media in these two twisty tales.
Lisa Jewell’s books skirt that fine line between psychological crime and domestic suspense, and her latest novel, None Of This Is True (Century, 18 July 2023), is a good mix of mystery and family tension, with a typically surprising ending.
Celebrating her 45th birthday at her local pub, popular podcaster Alix Summers crosses paths with an unassuming woman called Josie Fair. Josie, it turns out, is also celebrating her 45th birthday. They are, in fact, birthday twins who were born in the same hospital on the same day.
A few days later, Alix and Josie bump into each other again, this time outside Alix’s children’s school. Josie has been listening to Alix’s podcasts and thinks she might be an interesting subject for her series. She is, she tells Alix, on the cusp of great changes in her life. Josie’s life appears to be strange and complicated, and although Alix finds her unsettling, she can not quite resist the temptation to keep making the podcast. As Josie unfurls her story over the course of the podcast, Alix starts to suspect that Josie has been hiding some very dark secrets. Alix also comes to realise that she has made a mistake in allowing Josie into her home and her life.
This is another well crafted and intricately plotted novel by Jewell. It is a bit of a slow burn, but Jewell’s use of short sharp chapters, interspersed with extracts from the podcast and a Netflix documentary, help to move the story along nicely, and there is always a sense of dread about what is coming.
The characters are nuanced, and all of them have credible flaws and weaknesses. The structure of the story is very clever, and the book unfolds in an unexpected manner with moments of genuine shock and surprise.
I think that None Of This Is True is probably one of Lisa’s best books to date and certainly a highly entertaining read.
None Of This Is True was released in Australia and the United Kingdom on 18 and 20 July 2023 respectively. It is due for release in the United States on 8 August 2023.
Like None Of This Is True, Sara Ochs’ debut novel The Dive, (Bantam, 25 July 2023), is also a very cleverly plotted, dual perspective thriller with an unexpected conclusion.
Scuba diving instructor Cass has made a new life for herself at a resort on Thailand’s world-famous party island,
Koh Sang. Leaving behind her troubled past, and old identity, she has made new friends and is happily engaged to Logan. Her job is fun and going great, until one morning when a routine diving class is disrupted by the discovery of the body of a tourist who was supposed to be on the dive. Also on the island is travel influencer Brooke, who is looking for the perfect story to boost her followers, and is also pursuing her own agenda.
Frequently shifting the perspective between Cass and Brooke, Sara smoothly builds up the mystery about the dead tourist and another recent incident. The opening sections are a little slow, but Sara uses them to create a sense of underlying tension and suspicion, as well as making it clear that all the expatriate workers at the island resort have secrets that they want to keep hidden. Once I got into the story, I could not put it down, and the final stages are full of surprising twists, and a shock or two.
The resort and the location are beautifully described, and Sara creates a good sense of place, that also highlights the hidden dangers. The ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at the operation of the resort is also well done, although you mainly see the expatriate European workers in action. The Thai workforce and population are largely invisible, apart from the predictably corrupt and lazy local police.
In all, The Dive is an enjoyable and fun read. Some of the events towards the end require a suspension of disbelief, but the final ending makes up for it.
The Dive was released in late July 2023 in most places. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an advanced copy of the book.