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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brave, sensitive and intelligent - but not a thriller
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...
Published 15 months ago by Roman Clodia

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written mystery - slow paced but plenty of atmosphere.
What Lies Within isn't a traditional thriller but more the psychological study of the after effects of crime upon the victim.

The novel relies on a slow building tension along with feelings of isolation and anxiety to move the plot along and keep the reader hooked. If you're expecting cat and mouse chases and action sequences you're going to be...
Published 14 months ago by JK


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brave, sensitive and intelligent - but not a thriller, 5 April 2013
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: What Lies Within (Hardcover)
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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
By 
FictionFan (Kirkintilloch, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: What Lies Within (Hardcover)
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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. In keeping with the tone of the book, the dénouement might be somewhat low-key for this to be truly categorised as a thriller, but it is tense and moving and ultimately more satisfying for that. A very well-written story, with a leading character who will be remembered long after the book is read, Vowler has already with this debut established himself as an author to watch. Highly recommended.
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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
By 
This review is from: What Lies Within (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
By 
Jeff "roadrunner" (uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: What Lies Within (Hardcover)
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....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.
Like the escaped prisoner, who is recaptured and the young woman who returns to Devon, there's a scene where a fox is hunted by hounds [thankfully no doubt about Vowler's stance here] until it too cannot escape. Behind all of them there is Dartmoor. And there is no escape.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tom Vowler an author to look out for !, 21 Nov 2013
By 
Geoff "Geoff" (Christchurch, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: What Lies Within (Paperback)
I read this book in three days , never once feeling as though, like many books I read,that this is not winning me over. The two story lines are engrossing and as some of the other Reviewers have pointed out this is not by any means a wham bang in your face thriller, it's much more clever than that .
Subtle in its gradual build to different levels of excitement and mystery , with characters that are not only well rounded but I began to feel I had met them and they were truly part of my own past. The detail and atmosphere of Dartmoor and the areas surrounding the prison are beautifully written and detailed, given a far more realistic sense to the events that take place.

This book will live with me for a long time and I can't wait for the next Tom Vowler to hit the Bookstore shelves....any keen thriller reader or anyone really who likes a great story needs to read this !
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hauntingly good., 16 July 2013
By 
Liz Wilkins "Lizzy11268" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: What Lies Within (Kindle Edition)
Tom Vowler's "What Lies Within" is a superb debut novel. Suspensful, emotional and brilliant it has been pegged as a "psychological thriller" but it is so much more than that.

Anna lives in a remote Devon farmhouse with her husband and two children, they are surrounded by natural beauty and live a relaxing life. When a prisoner escapes from nearby Dartmoor prison that freedom is threatened and Anna feels increasingly isolated. Meanwhile a young and idealistic teacher suffers a brutal attack and her life changes forever. As the two stories come together, the question is asked...what is the TRUE meaning of family.

This book will get you from its first page and won't let you go until you are done. With superb writing and a gripping story intertwined with a sensitive yet realistic look at the aftermath of violence, this is truly a remarkable novel. Yes it is a thriller and a mystery but it is also an extraordinarily truthful look at how events can shape a life. The age old question "nature versus nurture" is embedded in its pages and it will have you considering those things that have shaped your own life. Some of the events in this book spoke directly to my heart in ways that I cannot put into words...I found it hauntingly beautiful.

The tension builds slowly but surely as we see events unfold through Anna's eyes - she is a character of extreme depth, you will feel you have only scratched the surface even when the tale is done. Her husband and children are equally compelling - I don't want to say too much, this is a story best read cold to get the full impact - but I WILL say that rarely will you see such a well drawn fictional family in any novel. What Lies Within is right - none of us can know the depth of another persons feelings, even those closest to us, or understand entirely what is at the heart of them - how often in reality can we even say we know those things about ourselves? What Mr Vowler has achieved here is a rare thing...a crime and mystery novel with total heart and soul. Thats the best way I can think of to put it. Sometimes words are not enough. Read it. You'll see. As I did I'm sure you will add Mr Vowler to your list of must read authors. Certainly I am very excited to find out what he has in store for us next.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book, 3 May 2013
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: What Lies Within (Hardcover)
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I thought this was an excellent book. It is well written, intelligent, courageous in the subject matter it tackles and for me utterly gripping.

As others here have said, this is mis-categorised as a crime thriller. It is the story of a terrible crime and its effects on all concerned both immediately afterward and as their lives develop. It really isn't a thriller even though there is some well-executed and genuinely frightening threat later in the book, and it is extremely tense much of the time. Chiefly, it is a thoughtful and insightful study of character and of how it may develop.

This may make it sound worthy and dull, but it isn't. It's terrifically readable and very involving, and I found I was as hooked as by any really good thriller. The narrative is excellently structured and paced, the characters well drawn and very believable and the sense of place on Dartmoor exceptionally well done. Tom Vowler has the sense not to spell everything out, so that the crime itself isn't described at all, just its effects and the victim's actions, thoughts and feelings (or lack of them) told in plain, un-hysterical language which makes it all the more powerful and disturbing. The passages detailing a medical examination, for example, were completely calmly told yet left me almost trembling.

Vowler's prose is excellent: expressive but unobtrusive and wholly lacking in melodrama so that you are simply drawn into the story and carried along by it. He gets small details exactly right so that dialogue is completely natural, like the way that medical staff use the verb "to pop" - "pop this gown on," "pop your feet into the stirrups" - without clunkily drawing attention to it, which makes the whole thing completely real. This aspect is excellent throughout.

This is one of the best books I have read for some time. Warmly recommended to anyone who likes an thoughtful, intelligent and thoroughly gripping read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking Psychological Thriller, 9 April 2013
By 
C. Bannister (Jersey, CI) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: What Lies Within (Hardcover)
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What Lies Within is one of those books that is easy to pick up and become absorbed in. Starting with the news that a prisoner had escaped from the prison Anna is interviewed by the local news in Devon, which starts a trail of events that build slowly and intriguingly throughout the 286 pages.

Tom Vowler writes very convincingly from the female perspective, Anna's whole persona is completely realistic as are her relationships with her husband, Robert, teenage son, Paul and younger daughter Megan. All the characters in this book are well defined combining perfectly with the underlying story. Sympathy is roused for chickens and foxes as well as Anna. In combination we have the story of a young teacher who is keen to install a love of learning in her first post when a shocking event happens. The two narratives are utterly compelling with thought provoking themes.

This book has been likened to Before I Go to Sleep and it certainly felt to me that I was reading something new and fresh. Tom Vowler has definitely delivered something special, a book that I will remember for the storyline as well as the characters.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written mystery - slow paced but plenty of atmosphere., 19 May 2013
By 
JK "Julie K." (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: What Lies Within (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What Lies Within isn't a traditional thriller but more the psychological study of the after effects of crime upon the victim.

The novel relies on a slow building tension along with feelings of isolation and anxiety to move the plot along and keep the reader hooked. If you're expecting cat and mouse chases and action sequences you're going to be disappointed.

The character at the core of the plot is Anna who seems to be living an idyllic life tucked away in a cottage in Dartmoor. As the plot unfolds it soon becomes apparent Anna is hiding, in more than one sense, and a series of complex twists and turns reveal the true Anna and ultimately a horrible incident in her past.

The story spins out to examine how far a woman might go to protect herself, and her family, if under threat and is written with a great deal of insight and sensitivity into crimes against women. Tom Vowler thoroughly examines themes of how a woman might be affected, in every way, by a particularly harrowing crime and writes the character of Anna with huge empathy and understanding.

I enjoyed the feelings of claustrophobia as something dreadful begins to circle around Anna. Her isolated situation seems to close in and her dream slowly turns into her nightmare.

Tom Vowler has produced a decent novel but it's certainly not a thriller and lacks much of anything that could be called 'fast or pacy'. In fact, there are times when the plot almost grinds to a halt and the melodrama ramps up to compensate for the lack of action. Having said that, What Lies Within is a debut novel and time will tell whether or not Tom Vowler manages to sort out the glitches. Not at all bad but not all good and I'm 50/50.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written and intriguing from the start, 26 April 2013
This review is from: What Lies Within (Hardcover)
What Lies Within is an assured debut from Tom Vowler. It tells the story of Anna who lives with her husband and children on Dartmoor. With an escaped prisoner on the loose as backdrop, and Anna's son AWOL, the reader quickly realises that all is not well for Anna and her family. Exactly what is amiss takes a while to come out. Chapters switch between Anna and another female, a teacher who is having an unsatisfactory affair. It is courageous of Vowler to write from a female point of view and, in my opinion, he gets it exactly right. Some scenes deal with difficult issues, and he writes them with compassion, insight and sensitivity. Whilst I was reading this novel my crime fiction brain was attempting to guess the plot... unsuccessfully. What struck me most about What Lies Within is how beautifully written it is. The prose is delightful: controlled, subtle and with fresh imagery. The Dartmoor setting is used as an effective mirror. I enjoyed the references to nature and wildlife and these are interwoven with action and dialogue. I won't comment on the plot as it will spoil things, except to say that I thought that the ending was absolutely right. This is a hard novel to categorise (and I'm not an expert on fiction categories). I wouldn't describe it as a psychological thriller or liken it to Before I Go To Sleep. I would describe it as literary psychological suspense. The pace builds as the plot unfolds. The characters and language draw the reader in. I can quite see how Vowler has won prizes for his writing. I loved the psychological themes and felt that they were explored with authenticity. An interesting, thought provoking read. Highly recommended.
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What Lies Within
What Lies Within by Tom Vowler (Paperback - 4 July 2013)
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