What do you do about symptoms and anxieties? Never google them, that’s for sure. Now imagine finding a body on the beach, undergoing police investigation and all the while attempting to juggle your own life. When that becomes reality for Anna Dent, our modern, seemingly logical, business-orientated woman, she breaks that one golden rule. She is consumed with grotesque obsession in the wake of this harrowing discovery. The body of Margryta, a 16-year-old girl washes up on a deserted beach off Klaipėda, Lithuania for her to discover. There’s something personal here and Anna feels an odd sense of obligation to this dead girl, something that may unearth some disturbing memories later…
Anna owns a UK company and sources linen products in Lithuania, and her frequent travels enable her to return to the scene of the crime. Susanna Beard leaves you wanting more as the novel transitions intermittently between Vilnius, a place fraught with danger, and Anna’s home in the UK, a mere reminder of the mundanity of life. Pursuing the case, she unwittingly plunges into the subversive world of human trafficking, violence and abduction. Anna finds herself running circles with ominous people, and the police don’t seem to be of any help. Unbeknownst to her, danger dogs her footsteps. Will she wake up and realise the dangers she has put herself in? Not at all, and you’ll find yourself worrying for her as she digs deeper into a world she doesn’t understand. For a character who starts out so strongly, she grows more frustrating with every change in her fundamental character. She loses focus on her work, her family and her friends. Margryta’s fate becomes her sole interest.
Meeting Will Russell, the handsome, young travel writer, is her only saving grace. With him, she can move on and grapple with her inner demons. She never found herself settling down again in the wake of her acrimonious divorce and in her 40s, these prospects leave her all the more vulnerable. Their relationship breathes fresh air into the tension of the novel, yet the absence of passionate scenes and their brief interactions leave a lot to be desired. Beard falls into the trap of reducing this strong female character to her relationship and if not for the murder case, it is disheartening to think that her role would be simply Will’s dependent partner. Indeed, Will’s connections to the case leaves Anna all the more restless about their future together and she won’t stop until Margryta’s story is brought to light. “There’s a tightrope to be walked, delicate as spider’s silk, before she can move on”, and she runs full force at it. If Anna intends to change herself for this man, we need to know where his place in this entangled story lies.
The Truth Waits has all the ingredients of a thriller – intrigue, romance, violence and mystery. Alas Susanna Beard may not have always followed the recipe along the way but she has crafted a very intriguing murder-mystery. You’ll find yourself constantly pointing fingers to solve this whodunnit. Everyone becomes suspect, every feeling is analysed. At times, the novel feels very two-dimensional with exaggerated scenarios and underdeveloped characters but as a whole it was an alright read. It won’t keep you up at night but it will engage with you with its harrowing tale of the very real dangers of human trafficking.
The Truth Waits by Susanna Beard
Legend Press (2018)
Image: Legend Press.