Facade by Helen Matthews

Every now and again, I read a book of which I have no expectations. The title is ambiguous, the author is new to me and I am just curious to read a novel from my ‘To Be Read’ pile. Facade by Helen Mattews fell exactly into this category.

The Blurb

A drowned child. Estranged sisters. A once-perfect home.

Silence echoes louder than truth.

When seventeen-year-old Rachel’s baby brother drowns and her older sister, Imogen, escapes to live abroad with Simon, her musician boyfriend, Rachel must face the family’s grief and disintegration alone.

Twenty years later, Rachel is a successful businesswoman, with a daughter of her own, supporting her parents and their elegant Georgian home, The Old Rectory, that shackles them to the past.

Simon’s sudden death in Ibiza brings Imogen back, impoverished and resentful. Her family owes her, and she will stop at nothing to reclaim what she believes is rightly hers.

The rift between the sisters seems permanent. While Imogen has lived a nomadic life, filled with intrigue, in Spain and Tunisia, Rachel’s has appeared stable and successful but, behind the veneer, cracks are appearing. Now, she is vulnerable.

As the wall of silence and secrecy crumbles, danger stalks Rachel’s family. She must re-examine her baby brother’s death, find out what happened in Tunisia, and fight to hold onto everything she’s achieved –or risk losing it all.

Façade is a gripping tale of loss, guilt and danger.

The Review

Facade is a novel where the story builds slowly. Each chapter adds an extra layer, an extra question, an extra red herring. It is a gripping novel that you will not want to put down because the story of the family is intense and fascinating. The author reels you in with a skill and expertise that belies the fact that this is only her third novel.

The novel tells the story of the Steatham family where assumptions, tragedy and lies weave a tight web of resentment, jealousy and fear. Rachel’s business is successful, but the secrets she keeps from her family cause friction. Imogen seems to lead the good life but happiness eludes her. Their mother holds more family secrets than anybody knows and their father is losing his grip on reality altogether.

This toxic combination is teased out by the author to produce one of the best books I have read all year. I would recommend Facade for book groups, and for those who enjoy novels by Erin Kelly, Sophie Hannah and Katharine Johnson. It is an excellent book and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Author

I’m delighted to announce my new psychological suspense novel Facade was published on 17 September 2020 by darkstroke, an imprint of Crooked Cat Books. It’s available now in ebook and paperback. Find it on Amazon.

‘Lies Behind the Ruin’ published in 2019 is a family story combining suspense and domestic noir set in France. It’s available from Amazon and all good bookshops.

My debut suspense thriller ‘After Leaving the Village’ was published on 12th October by Hashtag Press. It won first prize in the opening pages of a novel category at Winchester Writers’ Festival.

I’m originally from Cardiff, studied English at Liverpool University and hold an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes. I’ve won prizes for flash fiction and short stories and been published in ‘Artificium’, Reflex Fiction, 1k story, ElipsisZine, Love Sunday, Scribble and in an eBook ‘Garage 54 and other stories’.

Long ago in a galaxy far away (before I focused on fiction) I had some articles published in the Guardian, on the BBC and in lifestyle magazines. I love travelling and you can read about some quirky encounters and places on my blog. I’m an ambassador for the charity, Unseen, that fights to end modern slavery.

Val Penny


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