Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

What Lies Within by Tom Vowler

WithinWe all lie, whether we admit it or not. We lie to ourselves in self preservation or self-justification, we lie by omission – choosing to stay silent rather than speak the truth – or we tell ‘white lies’ to avoid causing hurt or offence to others. And lies are at the heart of Tom Vowler’s atmospheric debut novel.

Part psychological study, part crime thriller, part mystery, even part love story: What Lies Within defies pigeon-holing.

Set on Dartmoor, it uses a split narrative to tell the parallel stories of Anna, a successful ceramicist living with her husband and children within sight of ancient Wistman’s Wood, and an unnamed, idealistic young teacher who pays a terrible price for her naivety.

Anna, on the face of it, has it all: a patient and loving husband, a beautiful home in the heart of of the National Park and a burgeoning pottery business. But she is not a woman at ease with herself or those around her. The escape of a prisoner from the nearby prison preys inexplicably on her mind, and when her son – her firstborn – starts to behave in an erratic, secretive way (but not unusual, after all, in adolescents) her reaction appears disproportionate.  Gradually, by degrees, we begin to realize that Anna is living a lie.  She’s doing it for understandable reasons, but she’s lying nonetheless and the trouble with lies, of course, is that eventually the truth has a habit of surfacing – often when you least want or need it to.

As the two storylines  converge, the enshrouding mists begin to clear – and reveal a malevolent and unhinged presence on the moor – watching, waiting, thinking. He too is lying to himself – and it’s a lie that will eventually lead him into direct and violent confrontation with the object of his obsession.

Tow Vowler handles the female voice with remarkable sensitivity. If there was a false note anywhere in speech, action or motivation, I failed to spot it. He is also plainly a writer in love with both words and the almost primaeval wilderness of the more remote stretches of Dartmoor, deftly deploying descriptive passages that capture the essence of the place and the moment without overbalancing the narrative:

The house moaned as it was buffeted by a south-westerly that swept in from the Atlantic. Above, in the rafters, it creaked like an old man rising from a favourite chair As the first hint of daylight touched the land, a fine mist rendered the valley ethereal. Anna shivered slightly as she lit the fire; they’d have winter’s first dusting of snow in a week, people said.

What Lies Within is a haunting but ultimately satisfying story of loss, truth and resilience that will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading it.

No lie.

Headline. 2013. ISBN: 978-0755392183. 304pp.

We have TWO copies of ‘What Lies Within’ to give away. To be entered in the draw, just tell us which county Dartmoor National Park lies in.  The two winners will be drawn at random next Friday.

11 comments on “What Lies Within by Tom Vowler

  1. Carys
    August 2, 2013

    Oh, I want to read this! Dartmoor is in Devon!

  2. whatmeread
    August 2, 2013

    I’m guessing from the tags that Dartmoor National Park is in Devon, but I’m in the US. Can I still enter?

  3. Moira
    August 2, 2013

    Yes, of course you can.😀 (The tags are a bit of a clue, aren’t they?!)

  4. Martine Frampton
    August 3, 2013

    Dartmoor is in Devon and it is one of the few really wild places in England, you actually have views devoid of human content, no roads, no pylons, no buildings. My parents live there and my son’s first Christmas morning was spent on a very wet cold walk there:-)

  5. Stevie Carroll
    August 4, 2013

    That sounds just my sort of book. Dartmoor is of course in Devon.

  6. Laurel Bradshaw
    August 7, 2013

    Enter me please! Some of my ancestors are from Devon. Love reading about it.

  7. Moira
    August 10, 2013

    Okay. I threw the names up in the air and the first two my dog checked out were the winners. Laurel and Carys … congratulations! I’ll be in touch for your contact details.

  8. cleopatralovesbooks
    August 18, 2013

    Good luck everyone this is a brilliant book. Happy reading

  9. Pingback: What Lies Within – Tom Vowler | Cleopatra Loves Books

  10. Pingback: In Conversation with Tom Vowler | Vulpes Libris

  11. Pingback: What Lies Within – Tom Vowler – Cleopatra Loves Books

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s



Editorial Policy

The views expressed in the articles and reviews on Vulpes Libris are those of the authors, and not of Vulpes Libris itself.

Quoting from Vulpes Libris

You are very welcome to quote up to 100 words from any article posted on Vulpes Libris - as long as you quote accurately, give us due credit and link back to the original post. If you would like to quote MORE than 100 words, please ask us first via the email address in the Contact details.


  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
  • %d bloggers like this: