Auntie M was not the only disappointed reader when the duo of Nicci French decided to end their Frieda Klein series, but they’ve made up for that with a brilliant stand-alone, The Lying Room.

Neve Connolly is the gal everyone admires: a working mom of three who cooks and keeps it all together, and remembers to feed the guinea pig, she’s a great friend, too. So when her small print design company is bought out by a larger one, she decides to drop to 3 1/2 days a week to give herself some breathing room.

That her breathing room for herself means seeing one of the new bosses in an exciting fling has her feeling guilty but exhilarated——until the morning she receives a text to meet her lover at his tiny town flat and finds him dead, brutally attacked with hammer.

Unable to process any other thought but self-preservation, Neve sets out to eradicate any trace of herself and their relationship from the apartment, literally scrubbing herself away, all the while feeling she’s forgotten something.

The detective investigating Saul Stevenson’s murder seems to keep turning up at Neve’s door with questions, while her usually hectic household erupts into even more chaos with visiting friends from uni outstaying their welcome and her best friend’s marriage disintegrating at the same time.

Worried over her oldest child, Mabel, a young woman off to uni with her own ghosts she battles, Neve is consumed with worry and anxiety.

And all the time she exhausts herself to find a way out of the morass, while the detective intent on digging to the bottom of the case keeps turning up with more questions for Neve in a way that soon feels like the two of them are playing a strategic game.

But there’s another person out there watching as all the pieces fall into place, and that’s the real killer. As Neve tries to figure out who the killer must be, several on her list are those she loves, and she can’t begin to imagine how her life can continue if it is one of them.

The complicated plot adds to the very real feel of these characters, finely drawn with problems and issues all families and marriages entertain and their secrets emerge. As Neve’s attempts at misdirection rise, so does the tension, inexorably, toward a stunning climax that isn’t as much of an ending as a new beginning for some.

Eminently readable, this unsettling thriller is justly deemed highly recommended.