- Written between May 2017 and November 2017, released December 2017 by Bloodhound Books
- Length: 73,577 words, about 240 pages
- Highest Amazon rank: #1 Organised Crime (UK and US)
- Hot New Releases #1 Organised Crime (UK and US)
- Amazon Best Sellers.
- Music listened to while writing: Mostly Sia (1000 Forms of Fear).
“The End of Lies is a brilliantly dark and truly gritty read.”
I began writing Dancing at the Devil’s Door (the original working title) in third person. But each time I thought of the character and what was happening to her, I always thought of her in first person. I’d already written the first chapter and was half way through the second before I realised it was her story to tell and hers alone.
So I rewrote those chapters, and Bex – now Becky – came to life.
That immediately threw up quite a lot of problems. When you write in first person, you – that is the reader – can only know what she knows and can only feel what she feels. Of course she can observe the feelings of others, as we all can, but jumping from character to character or from sub plot to sub plot is strictly forbidden. So, I had to make sure that I could tell the whole story from her point of view alone. It was one of the toughest stories I’ve written, because of that. I dearly wanted to show what the police were thinking, and what Savage and Co were up to.
“Written with an energy and intensity that leaves you craving the next line, paragraph and page – let alone the next chapter.”
I’ve read a few first person mystery/thriller books and it’s always difficult for the author to keep it a mystery. In one book, the author got around this problem by having the protagonist black out whenever crucial plot points came up. In another, the author just conveniently had the protagonist forget his past. Uh!
I found both stories disappointing because, although it was necessary to misdirect the reader, or to withhold information from them, you can’t just disguise it with a convenient memory block of one sort or another. It leaves the reader, or rather it left me, feeling cheated when I reached the end of the book.
“I was wowed by the intensity and gripped from the very beginning. Andrew Barrett’s best ever book so far! He has now set the bar – Jeffrey Deaver beware.”
So how did I get around those tricky plot reveals?
Well, Becky has mental problems, and she’s chosen to actually believe the lies she’s told herself; it’s been drilled into her. So when she says blue is black, she actually believes it, and she can relate that to the reader with a clear conscience, with no intended misdirection from her at all. Of course, I’m pulling the strings – the misdirection – or, if you prefer, the lies, are all mine. But that’s my job, so I won’t apologise for doing that.
Shall I delve a little deeper into the story?
Okay. What follows is in no particular order, so you’ll have to forgive me if I flit around a bit.
“If you read one thriller this year it has to be The End of Lies by Andrew Barrett.”
I wrote a scene where I wanted Becky to show that her mental state was worsening, that her husband had become wary and even afraid of her. So I had her watching the bird table in her back garden through the kitchen window. A cat came along and killed one of the blue tits there. She was in a rage about it and it scared Chris to see her like this. To accompany that scene, I created another in which she tried to fix the situation: she took delivery of an air pistol. This illustrated a deepening of her mental frailty, and the crux of that scene was the fight she had with her husband over the weapon, and the verbal abuse she throws at the neighbour whose cat is the culprit.
For me, that was the end of it – both the illustration and the weapon. Until I got to end of the story that is. I wondered if I could use that air pistol in the final showdown. I was reluctant to at first, because I didn’t want the reader to think that those first two scenes were there just to introduce the air pistol so I could use in the final scene. It really was the other way around.
And then there was another change to the blue tit scene. Even in a work of fiction, people cannot abide cruelty to animals. Becky would have lost all sympathy in the eyes of a lot of readers if she went on a shot at the cat for killing one of her birds. So I had to rethink it; and I chose to introduce an evil little brute to replace the cat, and have him killing birds. So when Becky went after him, she’d lose no sympathy at all. It worked out pretty well.
“The End of Lies is a book that starts off at breakneck speed and it carries on at that pace until towards the end when Andrew Barrett ups the pace a few more notches!”
One major plot point that puzzled me for a long time was this: Do I have Chris and Sienna having an affair? I ran with it for a long time, allowing it to settle into the background in my mind as I wrote the book. But it didn’t sit comfortably with me; it seemed contrived that they would, but I could always choose to let Becky believe they were. This had advantages in that the romantic cliché never really happened; that it showed Becky’s mental weakness (being unable to reason with herself, and being unable to fully prove the affair), but it showed her cunning too, in that she kept Sienna on a leash right until the end.
Coupled to that dilemma was another. If Chris and Sienna were having an affair, would Chris and Sienna run away with the money? Well of course they would. But Chris wouldn’t leave Becky to pick up the pieces of his betrayal of the police – no way, not after twenty-odd years together.
So maybe he left provision for her? Maybe he left the first million so that she could find it after he and Sienna had split. Hmm, okay, but I still don’t think the affair would have happened, and Chris wouldn’t leave her to fend for herself – he just wouldn’t.
I scrapped the affair idea – but kept the ghost of an affair as I said above – and I had the intention of Chris and Becky leaving the UK together. Except for one thing, that’s how the book would have played out. Her mental state was worsening the further into the book I got, I’d given her the idea that Sienna and Chris were having an affair, bolstered it with Becky finding that one air ticket that Chris had bought for her, and bolstered also by Sienna’s false admission under duress.
“You will race to the end and then realise you have been holding your breath.”
So I came up with the ultimate twist – I’d have her kill Chris. I’d hoped that the reader might think it was Savage, and then maybe Sienna, and when Sienna’s name was found on that list, definitely Sienna. But they were all too easy. I wanted Becky to have killed him, and then own up to it right at the end. She had been telling herself lies from the outset, and because she was lying to herself, she was effectively lying to the reader too.
I’d intended the book to finish at Leeds train station with a big stand-off between Sienna and Becky (that’s why I say ‘the big reveal’ was at the end of the book). That stand-off would end with Savage getting his grubby claws on Sienna, and with Becky leaving for a new life in Italy. But I had an awful time convincing myself that’s how it would happen. Sienna is going to a horrific end, one that frightened the crap out of Becky. I decided she just couldn’t do it. And not only that, it left Savage and Co unscathed by the whole story – they’d still be illegally operating, and that kind of ending doesn’t appeal to most readers – they want the baddie to get his comeuppance.
I changed direction right after the big scene at the station. I had Becky have a change of heart in the taxi while driving away, and the last quarter of the book is her trying to correct that awful ‘error’ and going to rescue Sienna.
Would you like to read the blurb? Good, here it is, along with that superb cover…
My name is Becky. I arrived home to find my husband, Chris, stabbed to death and a gang of men ransacking our house.
Turns out that Chris has something that belongs to them. And if I want to stay alive, I have to find it and return it. They have given me seven days. And a beating.
There is nowhere to hide and no time left to look. So I will stand my ground as the deadline approaches. All I have is a head full of lies and a very bad plan.
This is my story.
This is how I met Becky Rose.
Right at the start her name was Bex. I first heard that name in 2009, or thereabouts. I was attending a lecture by the footwear bureau we had in Wakefield back then, and that lecture was given by Bex. The name made my ears prick up (the lecture didn’t), and I’ve stored it ever since in the old cardboard box labelled ‘Names for stories’. Incidentally, it’s not a real box, it’s just a shelf in my brain where I keep (and often lose) things I want.
But writing the name Bex was difficult. It sounded cumbersome to me whenever I read Bex’s this or Bex’s that; so I settled for Becky – a variation that I still liked.
And Rose? I have no idea. But what I recently found strange was when I named a file Becky Rose and pasted it into my Books folder on the computer. In fell in place just above a book I’d written in 2013: Black by Rose. Spooky eh, I wonder what that says about me: I’m a secret florist, a wood-be plant-wrangler?
In the first draft, she was Bex Sweet (really doesn’t roll off the tongue, does it?), and her husband Billy. I can’t remember where Sweet came from, but it had to go, and so did Billy because whenever I thought of him, I thought of him wearing shorts and a school blazer, kind of Angus Young style.
So that’s Becky and her husband, Chris, sorted out. How was I going to write it?
Well, I have to say that I’m a bit of an obsessive when it comes to writing. I’m so obsessive that I become quite a selfish person, pushing everything else aside so I can devote myself to it (how very sad!). But the benefit of this approach is that you can immerse yourself in the story and stay there for protracted periods of time, and it’s this intense thought that helped me answer that question.
I noticed that each time I thought of events unfolding around Becky, I would think of her responses to them in first person – I could actually hear her! Traditionally I write novels in third person, mainly because I always have several plot threads running at once, and writing them in first person would kill them instantly. But I’ve written a couple of Eddie Collins short stories, and both of those were in first person – and they turned out very well indeed. Could I sustain a first person story for an entire novel-length book? Only one way to find out.
I’d already written the first chapter in third person, so I scrapped it and re-wrote it in first. I studied them both side by side and eventually decided I should give it a go. There were quite a few times as I worked my way through the story that I thought it had been the wrong decision.
The story grew and I realised there would be a significant police involvement, and we, the reader, would need to know what was happening with the investigation. But did we? Really? Surely if I’d written in third person and felt inclined to write a thread for the police side of the story, then I risked spoiling the story and turning it into another crime thriller – something I was keen to avoid. This was a psychological thriller, and its emphasis should be on inner demons and states of mind rather than police procedure.
Was it difficult writing as a female?
No. Not at all. I feared it might be but I found it easy. I put aside our gender differences and wrote the story as though I was her; for the most part it was a doddle because she was such an easy-going woman. The crux of the whole deal was getting at the emotions inside her head; and what she was experiencing wasn’t gender-specific anyway: we all could feel like she did.
With that in mind, I’m really hopeful that this book has very wide appeal because the story isn’t about a woman, it’s about a series of problems (and I’m pretty sure we all have those) and Becky’s interpretation of them.