Andrew Wilson's The Lying Tongue has been on its travels through various people, and it was passed to me by Cornflower who, I think, felt it was outside her normal compass but an interesting read. She and others have complained, though, that it was emotionally uninvolving. Well, I agree with that last point in spades. This is a journeyman piece of work, flatly written, relying on one obvious idea, and without any real surprises.
Personally, I thought the plot was legoland stuff, and the "psychological" aspect was Readers Digest simple. The characters are unconvincing and the motivations of the main character both obvious - in the sense that I always felt I knew what sort of thing would happen - and paper thin in the the sense that they were unsupported by internal evidence or any credibility or coherence. And the prose is pretty desperate, with dead and buried dialogue which clunks so loudly that your laughter may disturb other passengers. It is interesting that that Cornflower did not want to give away the plot - I agree with that completely, because the only interest is "knowing what happens", which is not true of a decently written thriller, psychological or not. If you have a three hour train journey, it may serve as a distraction, but I certainly don't think it worth reading again.
So what would I read more than once, in this line. Well, three suggestions:
- Tiger in the Smoke, by Margery Allingham. A wonderful London based hunt for a psychopathic killer - whose identity you know from the beginning, so the puzzle and fascination are elsewhere. A London pea-souper and a beautifully drawn cast of characters make this one of the great crime novels - you may wish to read it, Cornflower, and see how far short Wilson has fallen!
- The Talented Mr Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith - a classic, and a fine film to boot. Now this is a devious bastard!
- A Mind to Murder, by P D James - murder in a psychotherapy clinic by the best crime writer of the modern era; but is the killer a patient or one those trying to heal them? And are they so very different? Dalgleish is admirable, James writes well, and you won't guess the answer - but you will feel the pain.
I was given The Lying Tongue on free circulation, and I am very willing to pass it on to anyone who would like to see if they agree with me or with earlier, much more positive reviews. I will send it to the first person who emails me with their name and address - happy reading!