Whose lies are true? A review of Dorothy Koomson’s gripping new novel All My Lies are True
Of all of life’s hardest questions to answer, one which I find the most difficult, is “what’s your favourite book?”. I could give you a rough top 5 without hesitation, but selecting one single book is near impossible! Among those top 5, I would place Dorothy Koomson’s, The Ice Cream Girls. I was in year 9 when I first read it, so roughly 13/14 years old (which in retrospect was probably too young) because one of my best friends at the time recommended it to me. I trusted her judgement, went straight to my school library and we read it simultaneously during our English classes. Dorothy introduced us to Poppy Carlisle and Serena Gorringe, who get accused of murdering their school teacher, leaving Poppy in prison for 17 years. We loved it so much that we nicknamed ourselves after the two leading characters and it became ‘our thing’. Aside from bonding with a friend, The Ice Cream Girls introduced me to Dorothy Koomson and turned me into a long-term fan. I’ve since worked my way through a large number of her books and adore her ability to combine an exciting whodunnit narrative with intricate, multi-dimensional relationships both familial and romantic. My friend and I naturally drifted after we finished secondary school, but our Queen Dorothy reunited us towards the end of last year with the announcement of… a sequel.
All My Lies Are True, a (take my word here) long awaited welcome back into the Gorringe/Carlisle universe, takes us forward 10 years to 2020, where Serena and Poppy are living distant lives from the story we read 10 years ago. Despite both living in Brighton, they count themselves lucky enough to never cross paths, allowing history to remain where it should… in the past. Little do they both know, however, that Serena’s daughter, Verity, is dating none other than Logan Carlisle, Poppy’s younger brother. Believe me, after a tender romantic scene where we were introduced to Verity’s boyfriend, I audibly gasped at the revelation of his name. Unsurprisingly – given that this was written by Dorothy Koomson – murders, hospitals and court trials regretfully reunite the Ice Cream Girls.
Just like in the original, we read the story through intertwining voices, though this time primarily from the perspectives of Poppy, Serena and Verity. I personally really enjoyed the chance to understand on a deeper level the impact that the series of events from the first novel had on Verity, a very strong, interesting character to read. I felt that the introduction of Logan as a romantic interest for Verity despite her knowledge of his bias to the situation, added to my intrigue by Verity’s character. In fact there were key points in the narrative where I genuinely questioned my trust in Verity as a narrator and debated with whom I sided, which is a credit to Koomson’s writing. Similarly, by giving Logan a narrative voice within certain chapters, we’re provided with a detailed understanding of and are positioned to us to identify with every character, making the whodunnit, puzzle style narrative even more thrilling.
Koomson’s writing style means that the secondary characters in both books are almost as important as the protagonists, even if just as foils. I have to admit, I’m not much of a fan of Alain, Poppy’s partner, though I’m not sure whether Koomson really wants us to be! However, I felt that Poppy’s character arc was particularly strong in the second book, which was paralleled with her relationships with both Alain and her parents, both being key elements in the first novel, adding to my emotional investment. And as for Serena’s husband, Evan… is it weird to fancy a fictional character?
I urge all readers to try any of Dorothy Koomson’s books (yes, they’re all this good) as she helped me step out of my comfort zone of what my teacher once called “pink and fluffy books” and welcomed me into a world of crime fiction I didn’t know I’d love. Even more so, though, as a writer, I learn so much from Koomson’s ability to create such bold, interesting characters within a vivid page-turner.
When we’d both finished reading All My Lies Are True, my friend and I agreed… we’d like a sequel to the sequel please, thanks.