Published 9th April 2015 by Penguin Books UK
Liz Nugent’s gripping novel of psychological suspense, Unravelling Oliver, is a complex and elegant study of the making of a sociopath in the tradition of Barbara Vine and Patricia Highsmith. Oliver Ryan is a handsome and charismatic success story. He lives in the suburbs with his wife, Alice, who illustrates his award-winning children’s books and gives him her unstinting devotion. Their life together is one of enviable privilege and ease – enviable until, one evening after supper, Oliver attacks Alice and beats her into a coma. In the aftermath, as everyone tries to make sense of his astonishing act of savagery, Oliver tells his story. So do those whose paths he has crossed over five decades. What unfolds is a story of shame, envy, breath-taking deception and masterful manipulation. Only Oliver knows the lengths to which he has had to go to get the life to which he felt entitled. But even he is in for a shock when the past catches up with him.
Liz Nugent has worked in Irish film, theatre and television for most of her adult life. She is an award-winning writer of radio and television drama and has written short stories for children and adults. Unravelling Oliver is her first novel.
‘Unravelling Oliver’ takes us into the world of a successful author, who appears to have it all. One day, he calmly attacks his wife, in what appears to be an unprovoked assault. He has no remorse, no compassion and no conscience. Alice is left in a coma. As a reader, this is where you start to see that Oliver is a sociopath.
The story continues to be narrated by a collection of characters, who comment on their surprise at what happened. They fill in the gaps of Oliver’s life history. Their statements read like interviews. We get to know Oliver and see the events unfold, that led to the attack on Alice.
This is a book about secrets. Oliver’s secret made him kill. I found him a lovely evil character. And rather endearing. A damaged man who has some rather weird and wonderful comments to make on the world.
This book begs to be read in one sitting, at speed. A gripping and dark debut, about a rather sharp tongued sociopath.
Thanks to Penguin Books UK and Netgalley for my review copy!