Title: Unraveling Oliver
Author: Liz Nugent
Genres: Crime, Thriller, Mystery
Release Day: August 22nd 2017 (first published October 11th 2013)
ARC was kindly provided from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.”

So begins Liz Nugent’s astonishing debut novel—a chilling, elegantly crafted, and psychologically astute exploration of the nature of evil.

Oliver Ryan, handsome, charismatic, and successful, has long been married to his devoted wife, Alice. Together they write and illustrate award-winning children’s books; their life together one of enviable privilege and ease—until, one evening after a delightful dinner, Oliver delivers a blow to Alice that renders her unconscious, and subsequently beats her into a coma.

In the aftermath of such an unthinkable event, as Alice hovers between life and death, the couple’s friends, neighbors, and acquaintances try to understand what could have driven Oliver to commit such a horrific act. As his story unfolds, layers are peeled away to reveal a life of shame, envy, deception, and masterful manipulation.

3 stars! 

“I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her. She just lay on the floor holding her jaw. Staring at me. Silent. She didn’t even seem to be surprised.”

Unraveling Oliver was a book I didn’t think I’d get approved of. First of all I love the cover so much, it’s different from the usual covers of the genre and I don’t know why but I absolutely loved it. So when I got approved – after weeks of reading slump – I thought this is it. This is the book that will put an end to it and indeed, I read this in two days which is awesome.

The book starts with the above quote. Oliver has just hit his wife and is dealing with the aftermath of his act. Immediately after it we’re taken a few decades back as the story spans a good 50 years, from Oliver’s parents to later in his life, after he hit his wife. Now, normally I’d be annoyed at the timeframe of the book but oddly it was interesting going back so many years ago and seeing the little things that ultimately shaped Oliver’s character.

As a person he is downright unbearable to read. Obnoxious, arrogant, a homophobe at times, mean and a cheater among other things. And yet still by the end of the book I didn’t hate him which baffled me so much.

The story although is centered around Oliver’s life and his wife’s assault, is told from roughly 10 POV which is mainly the reason I didn’t rate it with 4 stars. After that shocking opening, the story drags a bit as we’re told about his childhood and revisit scenes told from different POV. How many times can you read the same scene? It did have the desired effect, seeing different people react to stuff that was happening but it is a methodology that works best from on-screen adaptations, on paper, the repetitiveness kind of takes away from the major story.

The story has a lot of twists and by the 90% mark it really delivers a shocking finale – the book really earns the title but the journey there is slow. Overall this was so interesting to read – that comes from someone who was in a serious reading slump people – and I will definitely read more from the author.


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