She Lies in Wait

On a hot July night in 1983, six school friends go camping in the forest. Bright and brilliant, they are destined for great things, and young Aurora Jackson is dazzled to be allowed to tag along.

Thirty years later, a body is discovered. DCI Sheens is called to the scene, but he already knows what’s waiting for him: Aurora Jackson, found at long last.

But that’s not all. The friends have all maintained their innocence, but the body is found in a hideaway only the six of them knew about.

It seems the killer has always lurked very close to home…


Title: She Lies in Wait | Author: Gytha Lodge | Series: DCI Jonah Sheens #1 | Publisher: Penguin | Pages: 400 | ISBN: 9780241362976 | Publication date: 10th January 2019 | Source: ARC .mobi from Net Galley


‘She Lies in Wait’ is the debut novel from new British crime writer Gytha Lodge. It’s released on 10th January 2019 and the first book in a 3-book deal she has signed with Penguin. If you’re a crime fan I strongly suggest you put that date in your diary, because this is a solidly entertaining whodunnit.

The books opens with the discovery of the corpse of a young girl who has been missing for 30 years. The plot that follows isn’t desperately original, but it is satisfyingly told. Protagonist DCI Jonah Sheens is a strong central character, flawed enough to be interesting without those flaws ever overwhelming the story. The supporting cast of characters are satisfying too. On the one hand Sheens’ team are varied and interesting – a rebellious ex-soldier, a by the book nerd and an unsure, newly promoted female detective. On the other, the six suspects are distinct and memorable. The fact that Sheens was at school with them and the victim adds a lot to the story and Lodge manages to keep it interesting without ever making it feel like a gimmick.

She tells the story through chapters detailing the investigation intertwined with flashbacks to the night of Aurora’s death. This is a tried and tested method of keeping things interesting and can feel hackneyed, but here it works really well. The scenes of teenage hedonism in the 1980s are convincing (and dare I say it, familiar), whilst the investigation Sheens leads has a convincing shoe leather to inspiration ratio. Lodge makes good use of both period and location. The result is a thoughtful musing on the difference between our teenage and adult selves and on the way some families can dominate a small town. The examination of male exploitation of and aggression towards young women is similarly interesting and admirably even handed. None of the male characters are free from suspicion and that fact looms darkly over the proceedings at times. Ultimately though, there is a recognition that not all men are aggressors and the end result feels well balanced.

The intelligent handling of the themes at the heart of the book is evidence of Lodge’s talents as a writer. She is also an adept storyteller, with the mystery carefully unveiled in a way that kept me gripped and fascinated. The plot ramps up gradually to a really thrilling climax which had me clandestinely reading the book at my work desk. It was the characterisation that impressed me most though. These really do feel like real people and I ended up caring enough about them that I couldn’t imagine not reading the book to its conclusion.

In summary, this is a fairly traditional mystery told with heart and skill. On paper it might seem similar to Peter James’ Roy Grace series, but I’ve always found the Grace books a little plodding. ‘ She Lies in Wait’ has a lightness of touch and a depth that can be missing from modern crime fiction. For me it’s the best crime debut since Jane Harper’s excellent ‘The Dry’. I recommend it wholeheartedly and can’t wait to read Sheens’ next case.

4/5