Tom Vowler

What Lies Within

"'...Vowler constructs a beautiful sentence: setting poetry on the page with the lightest of touches...'"


Living in a remote Devon farmhouse, Anna and her family have always been close to nature, surrounded by the haunting beauty of the moor. But when a convict escapes from nearby Dartmoor prison, their isolation suddenly begins to feel more claustrophobic than free. Fearing for her children's safety, Anna's behaviour becomes increasingly irrational. But why is she so distant from her kind husband, Robert, and why does she suspect something sinister of her son Paul? All teenagers have their difficult phases...

Meanwhile, a young idealistic teacher has just started her first job, set on making a ‘difference'. But when she is brutally attacked by one of her students, her version of events is doubted by even those closest to her. Struggling to deal with the terrible consequences, she does what she can to move on and start afresh.

As the two narratives join, the tension builds to a quietly devastating denouement, shattering everything you thought you believed about nature, nurture and the true meaning of family.

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If you come to this book wanting to read a conventional thriller, then it is likely you will be disappointed, for this is a novel that will stretch your understanding of what constitutes a book included in the broad church of the modern crime novel. ‘What Lies Within’, if you really need a reference point, is a psychological study, but one that holds a fascination and an inescapable tension. A tension that is elicited quite skilfully by the author by the simple expedient of making you care deeply about this family and the secrets that you know are going to be the ruin of them. Vowler employs a split narrative – and I can’t say too much without spoiling the way the narratives come together - but, as we get to know what Anna is concealing, the reader is drawn in to share not just her dread of further physical injury but also her fear of what the exposure of her secret will do to the people she loves. The author writes well from a female perspective. The family dynamics are carefully lineated and explored; each character given space to perform on the stage of the book and given time to worm their way into your heart. Vowler constructs a beautiful sentence: setting poetry on the page with the lightest of touches that will delight those readers who enjoy the journey of a book, as much as they want to know what is going to happen next. The drama and seclusion of their home, set against the Dartmoor landscape lends itself to the menacing nature of the piece and a strong sense of place helps create an atmosphere that will stay with you long after you have finished the book. On this basis Tom Vowler is an author to watch out for; a writer, if there is any justice in the world, who is going places.

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