Truth and Lies: You can’t choose your family…no matter how much you want to

Truth and lies book review

What is this about?: Amy Winter is a daughter of two worlds — that of her serial killer parents and that of her adoptive parents who loved her, and raised her. The two come crashing together for the first time when a young girl, Hermoine, is kidnapped and her birth mother decides she wants out of jail.

What else is this about?: Family, the things that shape us.


Meet Amy Winter: Detective Inspector, daughter of a serial killer.

DI Amy Winter is hoping to follow in the footsteps of her highly respected police officer father. But when a letter arrives from the prison cell of Lillian Grimes, one half of a notorious husband-and-wife serial-killer team, it contains a revelation that will tear her life apart.

Responsible for a string of heinous killings decades ago, Lillian is pure evil. A psychopathic murderer. And Amy’s biological mother. Now, she is ready to reveal the location of three of her victims—but only if Amy plays along with her twisted game.

While her fellow detectives frantically search for a young girl taken from her mother’s doorstep, Amy must confront her own dark past. Haunted by blurred memories of a sister who sacrificed herself to save her, Amy faces a race against time to uncover the missing bodies.

But what if, from behind bars, Grimes has been pulling the strings even tighter than Amy thought? And can she overcome her demons to prevent another murder?

At it’s core, there are two relationships that make Truth and Lies a delicious read: Amy and Lillian, the woman who gave birth to her and Amy and her (adoptive) father, Robert.

One day out of the blue, Amy receives a letter informing her that she is the daughter of one of the most notorious husband-and-wife serial killer teams in the UK. It’s from her mother, Lillian, who wants her to visit. And with that Amy’s carefully scheduled and planned world comes crashing down around her.

Lillian has been in jail — well no one thinks it’s for long enough — and she wants out. She gives Amy the burial sites of three of the last victims of her and her husband, Jack’s, killing spree in an effort to gain Amy’s trust before she closes the trap she’s set — she knows where Hermoine, the kidnapped daughter of a TV personality, is. And if Amy proves her innocence, only then will she tell her where she is.

Lillian is a fascinating, dark and repulsive character. She will do whatever it takes to get out of jail, manipulate her children — of the four she had, only three are alive: Damian, Mandy and Amy. Amy remembers her oldest sister, Sally-Anne, being killed by her father one day when Lillian decided she couldn’t have any competition in the house for Jack’s attention.

Her relationship with Amy is one in which she is in control, and which Amy chafes at that sort of control. She doesn’t want anything to do with Lillian, but it’s Robert, a former policeman, who shapes her too. Amy will follow the law no matter what, hoping to be as accomplished as Robert was, but what she realises as the book continues is that Robert was human and fallible and he made his own mistakes too — one for which her adoptive mother, Flora, is kind of still paying for.

The push-and-pull of Lillian and Amy’s relationship fascinates me because Lillian frames it as a mother-daughter relationship, one in which she wants to connect with her children, and to connect Amy to her siblings, but while the words might make sense, the evil in her is clear, and Amy cannot tear herself away from giving the families of those last three victims closure.

The book intersperses the present with the past, with four-year-old Amy (AKA Poppy, her birth name) living in the house of serial killer parents, with her siblings. Readers are introduced to an astute Poppy, who knows how to survive her parents house, but is still the kind of innocent that will make you break your heart. Poppy knew how to survive, as she comes into more contact with Lillian in her present, Amy begins to realise that.

The cast is rounded out by equally fascinating characters, each complex in their own way that the author manages to flesh out quite nicely — and all who have a part to play. I do think there is a side-story with Paddy, Amy’s second in command, that isn’t necessary and that the epilogue is an example of tieing things up in a red bow when maybe they didn’t need to be. But.,

… damn, this was good.


  • Silvia says:

    You totally piqued my curiosity with this one, Verushka! I love when we get a good mix of past and present in our reads, and living in the house of serial killer parents must be really something . . . dark! Yep, I really like the sound of this book, thanks for sharing your thoughts 😀

    • Verushka says:

      It’s Lillian that really makes this work, Silvia and I’m not even kidding how much she creeped me out ? it really was so unexpectedly good!

  • Jen Mullen says:

    This one does sound dark, but compelling. I’m so curious about the trap Lillian is setting.

  • Sam@wlabb says:

    I love the idea of the daughter of a serial killer going into law enforcement. And that part about the older sister, just adds to the picture I have of how demented Amy’s parents were. Wow! Sounds like quite a mind trip.

    • Verushka says:

      It is definitely a mind trip, and I think Lillian is a big reason why it works so well — she’s so deceptive and manipulative and gave me the creeps like you would not believe, but still so compelling.

  • Kelly says:

    Imagine that, everything you’ve ever known ripped out from underneath you. I can understand if Amy started questioning herself, being the daughter of two serial killers would put doubt in your mind that you inherited the same trait. Lillian sounds like one of the most sinister characters I’ve certainly come across. I can tell this won’t be for the faint of heart, I always tread carefully when the narrative includes missing or abused children. Gosh this sounds incredibly dark but I’m already invested in how Amy’s story will end. Brilliant review Verushka, absolutely loved it!

    • Verushka says:

      Amy was psychologically abused, I think, but in the sense of the environment she was in and exposed to. But as she remembers what her life was like then, she does start to recall her past and what she went through, but this is what gets me — that part of the book takes us to 4YO Amy/Poppy’s POV, and it will break your heart simply for her wide-eyed innocence and perception of her surroundings. Lillian was evil and manipulative, but I can’t dent the push and pull with her and Amy, and her kids was really so interesting.

  • Angela says:

    Wow, these are some crazy family dynamics!

  • Melody says:

    Sounds intriguing and complex in terms of the family dynamics. You’ve definitely piqued my curiosity with your review, Verushka.

  • Wow! I really want to know more about Lillian, although I have to admit that she sounds a bit terrifying, lol. I’m glad this was such a great read for you.

    • Verushka says:

      You’ve hit the nail on the head with Lillian, Suzanne. She’s frightening and a frightening character in the pursuit of what she wants — at the expense of anyone and everyone in her way.

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