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What Lies Within [Hardcover]

Tom Vowler NCTJ Diploma in Newspaper Journalism
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
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Book Description

25 April 2013

A tightly spun, atmospheric and powerful psychological suspense.

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, determined to 'make 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 converge, the tension builds to a devastating denouement, shattering everything you thought you believed about nature, nurture and the true meaning of family.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Headline (25 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0755392183
  • ISBN-13: 978-0755392186
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,455,826 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tom Vowler lives in the UK, where he writes and edits fiction. His collection of short stories, THE METHOD, won the inaugural Scott Prize (2010) and the Edge Hill Readers' Prize (2011). His debut novel, WHAT LIES WITHIN, is a psychological suspense set on Dartmoor, and his second, THAT DARK REMEMBERED DAY, is out now. Tom is editor of the literary journal Short Fiction, as well as an associate lecturer at Plymouth University, where he's studying for a PhD. More at www.tomvowler.co.uk

Product Description


As unsettling as it is minutely imagined, this striking debut novel from Tom Vowler will give serious pause for thought to anyone considering downsizing for a cosy life in the countryside. (Patrick Gale)

Book Description

Combining the narrative drive and psychological suspense of BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP, with hard-hitting, thought-provoking themes, as Simon Lelic, WHAT LIES WITHIN is an exciting debut from a brilliant new voice in fiction

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The publishers are not doing this book any favours by likening it to Before I Go To Sleep, and pitching it as a psychological thriller - it's not. It's far too intelligent, subtle, and restrained in its approach, and is written with acute sensitivity rather than sensationalism. So if you're looking for a bold and brash, action-packed, commercial genre read this really isn't it.

There is a crime at the heart of this book - and a horrific one - but the narrative concentrates on its effects, both short- and long-term, on Anna and her family, not on `solving' a crime. The bleak landscape of the moors, and the isolation of Anna's home works well to support the atmosphere of the tale, and tales of pursuit, incarceration and escape are placed well.

This is a particularly brave and interesting (and heartening) book for a male author to write, and Vowler, to his credit, has inhabited his main female character with huge empathy and understanding. He has captured, especially, vexed issues of women's relationships to their bodies, and the increasing cultural commodification of female sexuality with a nice sense of unease.

So this is a dark and unsettling read, short but important. It's quiet in tone, but demonstrates emotional maturity and a deep intelligence. I finished the book and was left with the feeling that these characters are still continuing to live their lives beyond the text... Highly recommended.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Why did you let him in?' 5 Mar 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Tom Vowler's debut novel is almost certain to be one of the most read books of the year. Part psychological study, part thriller, it tells the story of Anna, living in seeming contentment with her family in a cottage on Dartmoor. But Anna has a secret in her past - a secret that she has kept faithfully to protect herself and those she loves. And now it looks as though that secret may be revealed...

This is not an action thriller. We see Anna's story gradually develop in a series of flashbacks that are intercut with the present. It's hard to say too much about the plot without spoilers but, as we get to know what Anna is hiding, the reader is pulled in to share not just her physical fear of further harm but also her dread of what the revelation of her secret will do to her family.

Vowler's sensitivity in dealing with some difficult subjects is remarkable, especially since he is telling the story from Anna's viewpoint. Without wishing to sound sexist, at no point does this feel like a man writing as a woman - Anna's emotions, thoughts and actions come over as completely credible. A strong woman, but psychologically maimed, she has been given a second chance at life and is determined not to lose it, whatever the cost.

The darkness of the subject matter prevents me describing this as an enjoyable read, but it is certainly an enthralling and emotional one. The portrait Vowler paints of Anna is sympathetic and intimate; her relationships with her husband, children and parents are entirely believable. Although the other characters are not quite as prominent they are equally well drawn, and Vowler uses the drama and isolation of the Dartmoor landscape to excellent effect.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and beautifully written 17 Jan 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
A powerful book, beautifully written - I loved it.

Apart from anything else, it had a great sense of place. I've only been to Dartmoor once, but could instantly imagine myself there. The landscape lent itself perfectly to the brooding atmosphere with a character all of its own.

The parallel stories were skilfully handled and woven together, and the storyline - though unsettling at times - was sensitively depicted. The characters were believable, and Anna's voice authentic. Impressive from a man (not meant to be patronising!)

I've a strong interest in the nature vs nurture debate and thought the topic was explored well.

There were a few surprises along the way too, leading to a satisfying conclusion.

One of those books that will stay with me for a while.

Looking forward to the author's next novel.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Tread softly................... 5 Mar 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
....because you tread on my dreams." Yeats' line sums up this emotionally difficult debut by Tom Vowler. Difficult to say much without ruining the first half of the book. It starts with two stories - one of a woman called Anna living with husband and troubled teenage son in the middle of Dartmoor, the other of a young woman escaping the moor to teach in the big city. The stark bleakness of the moor is in the story throughout and it's clear it's a landscape the author knows well. There is a briefly menacing side-story at the beginning when a prisoner escapes the moor's famous prison and could be anywhere. What it serves as, however, is as an analogy of the younger woman's own attempted escape. It turns out to only be an attempt as a brutal attack changes her life and the whole tone of the novel.
From then on it becomes, effectively, a study of her response to the attack, and the response of others - police, family, employers, to her troubles. It's extremely well done and I found it difficult to believe it was written by a man. Women, I think, will enjoy this book more [if 'enjoy' is the right word] as it appeals to female sensitivity and feelings men are physically incapable of. Vowler writes of difficult issues and decisions with considerable sympathy and there are a number of times when you as reader are bound to wonder what you would have done in that situation.
And that's the sort of book it is really. Thriller? Not really, though there are some menacing bits. Crime novel? Certainly not, even though a serious crime is at the heart of it. Minimum police involvement and not very complimentary at that.
It's a very promising debut all in all though I have some issues with the ending where one thing in particular jarred with me; I think you'll know it when you get to it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars What Lies Within this debate?
I started reading WLW with high hopes for an adrenaline fuelled reading, during which I would not put my kindle down until I had finished. Read more
Published 4 months ago by rowsian
4.0 out of 5 stars landscapes
This novel really crept up on me. As a woman, the darkness of the subject matter made it hard, initially, for me to read it. Read more
Published 4 months ago by roselle
5.0 out of 5 stars Just could not put this book down!
What a great book. I was captivated by Anna and found that even when I finished reading the book she was still in my mind . Read more
Published 8 months ago by Miss Lisa Stephens
5.0 out of 5 stars what lies within
A Fantastic book , great story , could`nt put it down, i found it very gripping in places , a very highly recommended book to read , well done Tom Vowler , looking forward to... Read more
Published 9 months ago by dionne
5.0 out of 5 stars Tom Vowler an author to look out for !
I read this book in three days , never once feeling as though, like many books I read,that this is not winning me over. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Geoff
5.0 out of 5 stars one of the best debuts of 2013
Q/A with author on my website [...] Chance to win free signed copy by tweeting three things Tom has on his bedside table by end of August.
Published 13 months ago by Montieth
4.0 out of 5 stars Great debut
This is a great first novel that builds on the promise of Tom's collection of short stories, The Method. It's well-paced, artfully written and very easy to read. Read more
Published 13 months ago by allthosestrings
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
I was slightly confused when I first got into this book at the change from the third person of Anna, to the first person narrative - it was not immediately obvious that these... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Sue C.
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking, well-crafted, sensitively-handled pageturner
I devoured this in one night; I can't remember the last time I read a book that demanded me to just keep going. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Miss H Dawson
5.0 out of 5 stars What Lies Within
Having read Tom Vowler's book of short stories, The Method, I knew I was going to be forced to face experiences that I would rather not think about and that would haunt me long... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Tavireader
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