Many authors produce memorable characters, while others create stories which are remembered for a long time. Lesley Hayes brings both of these areas of the craft together and binds them with incredible, tasteful language. Reading a story by this author is like finding the script of an erudite after-dinner speaker. Love, hope, devotion and tenderness are blended with deceit, treachery, and manipulation. Here we have a tale which depicts the lives of six characters, and how their relationships are intertwined. As in reality the people we find here have endearing, irritating, or admirable traits, but for me, every one displayed more than a hint of self-interest. Not only do the characters continue to develop throughout the story, but the plot also unfolds in spectacular fashion in the final few paragraphs—a masterclass from a great writer.
As usual, Lesley Hayes has carefully teased out and exposed those raw emotions that run between lovers, friends, parents and children, and enemies. This tangle of relationships that tumbleweeds exquisitely across the pages had me digging deep to examine the dark places of my own childhood, relationships, and the light of friendships. There are indeed dangerous people in the world, and dangerous relationships, the used and the users, the liars and the painfully honest, and indiscretions and bad choices, more often than we like, will come back to haunt us. Once more, I have been led down twisting paths and through seemingly unnavigable mazes longing to come out into the light and safety of unconditional love. Phew! A roller-coaster ride. Thank you, Ms Hayes.
This is the fourth book by this author that I have read, and I am convinced that she is a major literary talent whose novels deserve to be ranked alongside the greatest novelists this country has ever produced. There are trenchant remarks worthy of Martin Amis – “Osborne had been known to clear rooms with the stench of his sarcasm”. There are shrewd observations worthy of Jane Austen: “Although not much older, Lewis had been practising middle age for the last ten years at least.” She can be very funny – “She was wearing a haphazard mixture of bright pinks, reds and orange that someone like Violet might have carried off with panache. On Sophie’s ample form its discordance was more likely to trigger a migraine”. Her introduction of characters is deft and their development assured and perceptive: “She was useless at listening. She was far too self-absorbed.” She is also very wise: “the world is as we see it, not necessarily how it is, and we find what we are looking for.”
The toxic seeds that Lewis sows take root, and as with all of Lesley Hayes’ books, one is dreadfully afraid that everything and everyone will finally crash and burn. Rest assured that you will be saved at the end by the author’s generosity and compassion, having made it clear to her readers just how badly things could have turned out (as they often do in ‘real’ life). These are the machinations of deeply damaged and deluded individuals, and the tragedy, as always, is not so much in the misery that so many people live with and through, but that in the process, there is such a needless waste of good.
There are so many shrewd observations of human behaviour, couched in restrained, sharp prose: “He began to chew at his lip, trying to hear what she wasn’t saying.” “And in her world, the evil world where adult justice prevailed and children were powerless, what Osborne had in mind was exactly what dads did.” As with A Field Beyond Time, The Drowned Phoenician Sailor and Round Robin, Dangerous People delivers on all fronts. An engrossing read, this is a worthy addition to the Lesley Hayes canon, and I recommend it without reservation.
"Dangerous People" is a psychological character study, a satisfying and fascinating reflection on human beings and a gripping story that got under my skin. The story starts off at a dinner party with a well-chosen bunch of diverse characters, all with the usual likes and dislikes that social circles have; their hidden agendas, secrets and lies. Hayes is a master story teller but this time, the people and people in general are the story. Layers and layers are revealed as we learn how not everyone is how we thought they would be. What motivates people, drives their actions and causes them to feel what they feel can be sinister, fortunately not all of it is. A novel with bite and substance and very enjoyable.
With this book, as in real life, you're thrown into a diverse group of strangers and first impressions are not always accurate. It's only when you get to know them and see how they react in adverse situations, that you truly get an insight into the real people behind the public faces. Lesley Hayes's characters are so real in their imperfections and layers of complex emotions that their interaction is enough to create the story.
Whether you like or dislike these characters, you are drawn into their web of deceit, easily jumping from one person to the next, living each scene through their eyes. It takes a skilled writer to paint such vivid characters that the reader identifies with each one. Some characters are a comfortable fit, a warm and cosy read while others scarily draw upon the darker sides of human nature. Each one is compelling yet it is the connections that bind them together that creates the intrigue to read on.
This is a story of secrets, lies, betrayal and passion driven by obsession and hope. It builds to a satisfying conclusion but still leaves the ending free to be written in the imagination of the reader. Like all of Lesley Hayes's books, the characters stay with you long after the last page and I'm left hoping they all got their happy ever afters.
Relationships are the intrinsic fabric of a Lesley Hayes book. I have gone back to read several of her books in the last 12 months simply because they are irresistible. Dangerous People is my 100th book to review on amazon and I could not have chosen a better book to mark my reading journey. It is the little things that this writer does that make her special. To quote a line – Drew began to fiddle with the cake knife, spinning it round. Sooner or later Sophie would tell him to stop doing it, but he never remembered in time not to do the things that irritated her. – How wonderful and simple this says so much about the relationship in such a concise way. It is Lesley’s understanding of how we each draw so much from one another in the small ways, in the big ways and how that interplay can be constructive, destructive and how she quite simply makes it all fascinating that makes her a truly special writer. There are long engaging conversations that flow beautifully throughout this book, a skill lost on most writers, yet effortless in the flow of this book, a strong, intelligent consideration of the human way. Game-playing, false flattery, immodest deceit, back-biting, jealousy, passion, desire and regret there is so much on display here. Intimacy and loneliness here also, in may I say a very British fashion and it all works so well. I have compared Lesley Hayes to a modern day Henry James who though he was American, wrote so much about England and the English and their interplay with Americans. His books handle consciousness and perception and it is in this that I see the parallels except to say that I would put down a Henry James book any day to pick up one from the wonderfully talented Lesley Hayes. A veritable treat and a book you really should read. Five stars.
Lesley Hayes' characters do not solely exist within the confines of a page but bound to life with all of the happy, sad, and scandalous complexiteis of real people that only a person with a great knowledge of the human condition can create. DANGEROUS PEOPLE is the exploration of many diverse people and the reasons they are the way they are. Like many of Ms Hayes' other works the story is compelling, deeply mindful, intense, but always with an undertone of hope that may or may not be within reach, but is always searched for. Within her characters are aspects of everyone of us - many of which we do not like but must live with. Intriguing and deep Lesley has written a thought provoking and masterful work. The book is definitely not mundane. If you search for both entertainment and meaning when you read you must read this author.
I just completed my second reading of Dangerous People by Lesley Hayes. The first was a rather breathless rush to see what would happen next. A page turner for sure, although during that quickening of pace it was all too evident that the characters, their different agendas and the dynamics that existed between them were rich and complex. The second read was savoring what I had neglected to fully appreciate the first time as each individual revealed yet deeper layers of personality as their interactions took them to greater understanding of themselves and the person with whom they shared ~ or didn’t ~ their relationship. It was this sharing and withholding of secrets, while attempting to maintain the status quo and semblance of love and friendship in its diverse ways, that makes this book so compelling. Lesley Hayes’ understanding of people and the psychological vicissitudes that motivate them is what’s so absorbing here. Throughout my reading I was constantly stopped to recognize just how well she describes the convolutions and thinking of such different personalities. It is amazing that her insight is so precise and conveyed so accurately in her writing. Her characters are fine drawn; often pathetic, often admired, often commiserated with, most often struggling and often disliked but more often revealing yet different aspects of human nature. It is this that makes her novels so exceptional and what makes the reader long for the next one to discover what new depths of revealing personalities she will introduce us to. So often in real life we get only to see the superficial shell of what another wants us to see leaving us with the lurking suspicion there is more that needs to be revealed to really know who that person is. In Dangerous People, we are introduced to similar surface traits that very quickly unravel deeper levels of being, often unpleasant, often not, but always interesting as they expose characteristics and attributes that when in contact with another ignites emotions and thoughts that had been carefully protected from discovery. It is the discovery of Dangerous People concealing themselves from themselves and others such that when their masquerades become unraveled the resulting chaos of exposure sparks not only conflict and rejection but often love and acceptance that would have otherwise remained unexamined had the facade remained in place. Dangerous People is a reminder that the unexamined life is not worth living. Lesley Hayes observes this in depth with each of her characters then shares her discovery to make this novel an excellent read.