The Lying Tongue (3 stars)

Andrew Wilson

The Lying Tongue (Canongate)


After his biography of Patricia Highsmith, Andrew Wilson’s first foray into fiction emulates his idol, brimming as it is with sexual ambiguity and dark intent. His protagonist Adam Woods is a thinly sketched aspiring novelist who finds himself personal assistant to a forgotten literary enigma in exile. Delivered in the first person, Woods’ deliberate and increasingly devious voice initially appears contrived as, incarcerated in the old man’s Venetian palazzo, he finds himself increasingly obsessed with the idea of an illicit biography. Only in the second part of the book does Woods’ own sinister past begin to present itself, drawing back the curtain on author Wilson’s chilling potential.

As such, The Lying Tongue is a slow-building, atmospheric debut that lives by intrigue more than character or insight and reads much like the mysterious, imaginary 60s crime novel that lies at its narrative centre. There is a bold self-conscious quality at play too, Wilson eventually questioning the very nature of authorship.

(Mark Edmundson)

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