Rebecca Whitney – The Liar’s Chair

rebeccawhitney-theliarschairRachel Teller and her husband David appear happy, prosperous and fulfilled. The big house, the successful business… They have everything.

However, control, not love, fuels their relationship and David has no idea his wife indulges in drunken indiscretions. When Rachel kills a man in a hit and run, the meticulously maintained veneer over their life begins to crack.

Destroying all evidence of the accident, David insists they continue as normal. Rachel though is racked with guilt and as her behaviour becomes increasingly self-destructive she not only inflames David’s darker side, but also uncovers her own long-suppressed memories of shame. Can Rachel confront her past and atone for her terrible crime? Not if her husband has anything to do with it…

A startling, dark and audacious novel set in and around the Brighton streets, The Liar’s Chair will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the final page has been turned. A stunning psychological portrait of a woman in a toxic marriage, Rebecca Whitney’s debut will show that sometimes the darkest shadow holds the truth you have been hiding from…

The question “what if?” is one of the most powerful questions one can ask. It can spur exploration, invention, and new discoveries. But if “what if” is a stand-in for “if only” then it can become one of the most destructive questions a person can ask themselves, as it is often laced with guilt and regret. And in Rachel Teller’s case it seems as if her “if only” causes her entire life to unravel, but Rebecca Whitney’s debut The Liar’s Chair shows that even if you live in a house made mostly from glass, what goes on inside can be largely hidden and that Rachel’s life hangs together from “if only”s. 

While The Liar’s Chair’s plot was gripping, the book was very much a character study of how a person could end up in Rachel’s situation. Rachel is a sympathetic main character, but for me it was a sympathy laced with pity, but also outrage and exasperation, because she does some awful things. What fascinated me the most was how someone who is evidently talented and competent at her job, creating a very successful business, can be so totally dominated and broken down by her significant other. Why would she allow him to treat her this way? Is there an underlying pathology or traumatic event in her past? Whitney reveals this beautifully. It’s at times painful to see what causes Rachel’s belief that she merits no better treatment and it made me angry too. There were so many points in Rachel’s life that could have been a “what if” moment and there were so many people who failed her, including Rachel herself.

Rachel is mostly surrounded by male characters; the women we encounter are mostly in the background or seemingly stuck in similarly unpleasant marriages. The only other significant female character is Rachel’s mum, who we mostly encounter in Rachel’s memories, and who doesn’t come off to well in her role as a parent. The three most important men in Rachel’s life are her husband David, her lover Will, and David’s business partner Alex. David pushed all of my buttons; he’s an awful man, who unfortunately, as is so often the case with abusers, comes of as charming to the outside world.

Early on, Whitney includes some great clues to his true nature, specifically through his treatment of his two dogs, the way he alternately cherishes them and ignores them and plays favourites with them, which is a cruel thing to do. Will was a far more likeable character, though he’s no snowflake; he’s a dealer and small-time criminal. Yet he has a kind heart as shown through his treatment of his little, old dog, who is cherished and pampered. Whitney utilises the treatment of animals, and dogs in particular, as a way to telegraph a person’s true nature, because there are several other characters who’s treatment of animals is commented upon.

Whitney’s writing is great. Her pacing creates a tense narrative, which consistently torques up the tension and increasing the speed at which Rachel’s life unravels. The ending was spectacular and I liked how Whitney slowed the story back down in the final pages, creating a satisfying ending. The Liar’s Chair is a great debut and if you enjoy a psychological thrillers in the vein of Gone Girl or The Life I Left Behind, then you should certainly give this one a try.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.

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