Sunday 26 May 2024


I don't normally spend great chunks of time reading a novel during the day; I'm a woman . . . I'm busy. But I could hardly put this psychological crime thriller down because I was hooked right from the word go. It's written with the lightest of touches, almost as if it's chick-lit . . . but it's most certainly not chick-lit.

It all kicks off on Saturday 8th June 2019 in a trendy London gastropub where two women are celebrating their forty-fifth birthdays with their families. 

The more attractive, popular and successful woman - Alix Summers (and of course why wouldn't she be given her upbeat name) -  is with her husband, two children, three sisters and their husbands, plus close friends, and they're having a ball. Champagne, presents, balloons, lots of excited chatter, other diners are drawn to this noisy, happy group, and why wouldn't they be. I've seen plenty of similar party groups and it's very easy to assume that people like this have exceedingly happy and exciting lives. 

Alix in particular seems to have it all: stunning good looks, tanned, tall, slim, trendy ice-blonde hair, fabulous clothes and jewellery, doting husband, nice kids and supportive sisters. The stuff of chick-lit but, as I said, this is not chick-lit. Is she as nice as she appears to be, though, and is her family as perfect as it seems to be?

Our second birthday girl is Josie Fair, who has more of a quiet attraction or so Alix thinks. She's particularly taken with Josie's long wavy auburn hair and brown eyes which are almost black. Josie is with her husband, Walter, who's so much older than her that he looks more like her father than husband, wearing new clothes still creased out of their wrappings. Eating out is not what they usually do and it shows. 

We learn very little about Walter to begin with, although more about Alix's husband, Nathan, who's an estate agent dealing with top-end properties. Although he earns a lot of money, physically he doesn't appear to be the kind of man that a stylish, beautiful woman like Alix would be attracted to:  his unruly shock of bright red hair, undescript face and white, shapeless legs rather like school boy, are hardly flattering attributes. 

There's just one birthday present for Josie and a simple meal compared with the many plates of food which keep arriving at Alix's table, plus very little in the way of conversation So right from the beginning, the two birthday parties and the two birthday girls couldn't be more different.

Josie is so immediately fascinated by Alix Summers that she Googles her name on her mobile while she's sitting at her table (she knows her name because the waitress called it out) and learns that Alix is a successful podcaster whose subjects are highly successful women. So as soon as Alix retreats to the cloakroom, Josie follows her, announces that they are birthday twins and invites Alix to the clothes alteration business where she works because she has an interesting proposition for her.

Intrigued by this, Alix does visit Josie. She's looking for a way to expand her podcast business and when Josie tells her that she wants to totally change her life and for Alix to document this, Alix takes the bait. Particularly when Josie hints at dark secrets she wishes to reveal.

'Don't do it, Alix !!!' many readers will already be shouting at the pages of the novel. Because Josie Fair is a seriously spooky person who quite clearly has a will of iron. From her eccentric denim wardrobe to the aggressive Pomchi look-a-like dog she carries in a dog carrier to her relentless worming her way into Alix's life, she appears to be a person to avoid not embrace.

But Alix thinks that a podcast centred around Josie is a potential big hit and so the Hi! I'm Your Birthday Twin podcast begins to take shape. Every day Josie makes her way from her dingy council flat to Alix's fabulously stunning Edwardian house to tell her story in Alix's recording studio in her garden.

And what a story it is. Married at seventeen to Walter, who she met when she was just thirteen, with a daughter, Roxy, who ran away from home when she was sixteen, and another daughter, Erin, who stays in her untidy, smelly bedroom gaming on her computer all day. Erin has never eaten solid food and lives off baby food in jars and tubs of deserts, which Josie religiously prepares for her every day and leaves outside her room on a tray. Really? The word gross comes to mind.

We learn about Josie and her family bit by bit and not in massive detail.  In fact, Jewel's writing style of less is more threads its way throughout the novel, and Jewell forces us to speculate for ourselves rather than tell us straight off . . .  and it works. We want to learn more so we keep turning those pages, which is very clever writing.

Is Walter is a paedophile? Are the girls nightmare daughters? Is Josie a tragic victim?  One thing is for sure: this is a highly dysfunctional family.

The story unfolds through day by day by accounts of the two women and extracts of Alix's interviews, including details of lighting and props, not just with Josie but also the people she's come in contact with. It's an effective technique, adding variety to the delivery of the story, and I particularly enjoyed these chapters because it was refreshing to hear the interviewees talking so freely. 

BUT at the back of the reader's mind is the title of the novel - NONE OF THIS IS TRUE.

So what is true? And who is not telling the truth?

You'll have to read the novel to find out. I hope I've given enough background to have wetted your interest but not enough to spoil the read. And there is a lot of violence I should add - this is, after all, a crime novel- but Jewell doesn't go into too much gruesome detail. Again she lets your imagination run riot. 

So what is it about this novel that I so like?

The immediate hook for me was Alix Summers. I can't remember ever understanding and sympathising with a character so much. Firstly, although I'm an author, I'm also a journalist and blogger so I appreciate that desire to get a big story, which is what drives Alix despite all the warnings signs. Secondly, she reminded me of Mollie King, the Saturdays girl band member and Radio One D.J. in appearance, charisma, openness, happy family and life style. But that's where the similarity ends, I should add straight away. However, it meant that I had a picture in my mind of Alix which in some way helped me to understand and relate to her.

And then there's Jewell's writing style which has to be amongst the best in contemporary crime writing: fluent and seemingly effortless but packing an enormous punch to the gut as she allows the story to slowly unfold. Every detail, every description, adds to the story without being over-flowery or over-dramatic. Economical writing is a good way to describe it and believe me, that's not easy to achieve.

I previously read an earlier novel by Jewell - The Family Upstairs - which is different in structure but just as powerful. It was because I enjoyed this novel that I chose to read None Of This Is True. Jewell has also written a further nineteen novels, which means that there are more novels for me to read. 

And she's been noticed in Hollywood. In 2022 she was commissioned by Disney to write a full-length novel for Marvel. It'll be the first novel in a new series called Marvel Crime, using the existing character of Jessica Jones, a private investigator. This is a new genre for Jewell to tackle and she admits that it's been quite a challenge. Titled Breaking the Dark, it comes out in July 2024. Guess who'll be reading it.

And finally, and this is just on a personal level, Jewell is a dog lover and has just adopted a rescue dog from Romania. No surprise then that there are two dogs in None Of This Is True. I'm also a dog lover and in the process of editing my two fun fantasy novels which have dogs (and a cat) as main characters. If I can write anywhere near as well as Jewell I'll be a very happy woman.

Something really spooky happened while I was researching Lisa Jewell which I'm going to tell you about because we all need to be vigilant when using the internet. From time to time I've been getting a Facebook Friend request plus messages by someone calling themselves Robert Tammy. He claims to be an ex-military American and apparently likes what I write on Facebook and would like to get to know me better !!! These messages are interspersed with flower emojis and since I'm highly suspicious of such requests,  I've always immediately declined such offers of friendship. 

So, Lisa Jewell's Facebook site is available for all to see and I decided to write a brief message on her post about None Of This Is True saying how much I liked the novel. Imagine my horror, then, when I was notified that Robert Tammy had posted a message to me right after my message to Lisa Jewell on HER Facebook site. 

By the time I showed this to my husband, the message had disappeared but re-appeared after a comment from another woman on this post, changing my name to hers !!!  My husband photographed the message and reported it to Facebook so I'm hoping that it'll be investigated.

Robert Tammy is probably a made-up name, his smiling photograph not his, and it could even be a woman or a group of people who are looking for easy targets to con out of money at some stage, or, even worse, to arrange a meet.  And the irony is that this scenario could easily be part of a Lisa Jewell novel. So be warned . . . anyone can be the target of such despicable people.