Perfect Liars opens with a funeral. A tasteful, beautiful, expensive funeral. Whose? You’ll have to read the book to find out. One of these women is dead…
If you sat next to Nancy at a dinner party, you’d have fun. You’d think she was charming. Funny. Relaxed. You’d think that because that is what she’d want you to think.
Every time questions got close to marriage or children or anything even slightly personal, she’d turn the question around on you. You’re fascinating. You’re dazzling. It’s far more fun to talk about you. Later, if you’re the sort of person who really thinks about things, you might wonder why someone so brilliant in every conceivable way would want to avoid talking about themselves.
If you’re the observant type, you’ll notice that eyes are always on Nancy, especially her friends’. They take their cues from her. If she gets up to go to the bathroom, they’ll wait to see if they need to go with her. If she wants her glass refilled, they’ll nudge one of their husbands. You’ll be left with no doubt at all who’s in control of that friendship.
Sitting next to Georgia is something of a treat, especially if you’re a man who likes women. She’s all blonde hair, eyelashes and tasteful cleavage. She’ll peek up at you through her eyelashes and, before you know it, you’ll want to defend her from the rest of the world. Be warned – nothing about Georgia, from the wrap dress to the way she brushes your arm while you talk, is an accident.
If you pressed her to talk about herself, she would blush as she told you that she went from an ugly suburban patch of Hampshire to boarding school, to Oxford. If you’re a snob, you’ll notice that despite both her school and university, Georgia waits to check what knife and fork everyone else is using before picking up her own. You might ask whether she has a family. She would say no and then take a long drink from her glass of wine.
Later you’d remember her tight smile and feel impressed at just how far she had managed to come – a scholarship girl who married one of the country’s most promising politicians. Have you ever met anyone who has quite so much to lose?
Not sitting next to Lila means spending the evening wishing that you were.
Her end of the table is always the raucous one, screaming with laughter at her outrageous comments, shouting down to the other end to pass more wine because they’ve already finished the bottles placed nearest them.
But as it gets light, you’ll start to notice the fine lines around Lila’s face, the rasp in her voice and the brittleness to her limbs. Even party girls aren’t immune to the ravages of ageing, and Lila who was everyone’s favourite friend ten years ago is, like everyone else, getting older. Don’t mention this to her. She’ll cry, and tell you how everyone else in the room (other than you, of course) is old, dull and boring.
Lila’s husband will come as a surprise – immaculate in a pink check shirt, all floppy hair and boarding school charm. He’ll try to draw you in on a joke about Lila, what a mess she is, how everyone thought she’d grow out of this and yet somehow she hasn’t. Maybe you’ll laugh. Or maybe you’ll wonder how she can be married to someone who so clearly dislikes her. You’ll go to sleep feeling glad that you won’t see Lila again for a while. She’s fun, the most fun imaginable, but she’s also exhausting. Reckless. And very, very sad.
After dinner, no matter who you sat with, Nancy, Georgia and Lila would talk about you. What you were wearing, how you spoke. Your manners, your make-up, your conversational gambits. Did you bring an interesting bottle of wine or something embarrassing from Sainsbury’s? Does your marriage seem like a success or are you going to end up alone?
Did you belong at the dinner? Are you like them? You should hope not. Because being like them means having something to hide. Murder isn’t so difficult the second time around…