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by Tom Vowler
Headline, April 2013
304 pages
19.99 GBP
ISBN: 0755392183

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Tom Vowler is another debut author struggling to escape from the confines of anonymity in an ever-widening field, but without a doubt WHAT LIES WITHIN is a strong and assured book, although at times Vowler comes dangerously close to straying into the territory of somewhat purple prose.

A theme of imprisonment runs though the book, starting as it does with a breakout from Dartmoor prison, and moving on to the feeling of claustrophobic surrounding a family living and working in the vicinity of an isolated Devon farmhouse. Anna is a potter working from home, and her husband Robert works outdoors in the area, whilst their two children, Paul and Megan, go to the local school.

Anna seems to have a happy marriage, but it's soon clear that she's uncomfortable with physical intimacy and sex is, for the most part, off the agenda. Her son is at the age where he likes putting pin-up photos of scantily dressed models on his bedroom walls and when Anna takes an illicit look at the search history on his computer she encounters rather more than she bargained for, which starts to rock the already somewhat shaky foundations of her world.

Intertwined with Anna's story is that of a young and idealistic teacher, struggling with the rebellious teenagers in her class, but still trying hard to bring out the best of them, even going as far as to offer to give extra lessons at home to one of the boys who has proved most difficult to handle. It's not hard to imagine that this isn't going to end well.

The two stories sit somewhat uneasily together at first, and I almost succumbed to the temptation to back-pedal away at speed when it became clear that the teacher's story was written in the present tense a narrative device that I frequently find grammatically clumsy and nearly always irritating. But by then, my interest in Anna and her family had been piqued and I'm glad I stayed on board. The two stories are cleverly intertwined and eventually I understood and appreciated Vowler's reasons for telling the story in this way.

WHAT LIES WITHIN is an intriguing story of how the past always contrives to cast a long shadow over the present and how buried secrets will always claw their way out of the grave.

Linda Wilson is a writer, and retired solicitor, with an interest in archaeology and cave art, who now divides her time between England and France.

Reviewed by Linda Wilson, May 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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