The Lying Tongue opens as twenty-something Londoner Adam Wood arrives in Venice on sabbatical from his studies as an art history major. Fresh from the distractions of London, Adam sees Venice as exotic and passionate - the perfect place to put his imagination to work and finally write his first novel.
But when his job teaching English to the sixteen-year-old son of an Italian investor suddenly falls through, Adam is set adrift; unable to support himself, his plans are placed in jeopardy. At the last moment, he finds a position as an assistant to the reclusive octogenarian author Gordon Crace, who wrote the bestselling novel The Debating Society.
The Debating Society was Crace's penultimate achievement. Inexplicably, he never wrote another book. Over the years, Crace has become a sad old eccentric, living in isolation in his rundown Palazzo, never engaging with anyone, never going out, never experiencing anything.
Adam views Crace as a kind of self-imposed prisoner. The filth and dirt, neglect and mess of the Palazzo define Gordon's life.
It's as though he has lost the ability to cope, the dirt acting like a shell protecting him
from life outside.
Crace is forever locked into his own little world with the remnants of another age, surrounded by his books and his art. Yet despite his employer's eccentricities, Adam settles into his respective role quite easily.
Both seem to enjoy the other's company, with Gordon pouring his heart out to Adam, his dreams and disappointments, practically friendless but for him.
Once an English Master at a school in Dorset, Gordon once had ambitions to write but fell in love with a pupil, "one of his boys named Chris."
According the Gordon, Chris suddenly committed suicide, the reasons never fully explained.
With the sexual tension between them quickly suppressed, Adam is suddenly driven by a new purpose: an overwhelming desire to know, to scour the palazzo for signs of Crace's past and to find out whether or not Chris's death perhaps had more sinister overtones.
Clearly Gordon has been haunted for years by his own private demons, at times becoming unhinged by the simplest of actions.
When Adam discovers a possible blackmail letter written by someone back in Dorset who knows the secret of Gordon's past with Chris, he decides to be the one to write Crace's biography and finally make a name for himself.
Obsessed by a love affair gone wrong and by a father who doesn't appreciate him, Adam sets out to take out revenge on the people back home whom he feels never had any trust in him. Set unrelentingly on a path of lies, deceit and treachery, Adam becomes emboldened with his grand ambitions at whatever cost, his notebook filling up as he gathers his raw material in Crace's "own pitiful, miserable sordid little words."
Author Andrew Wilson expertly assimilates the fate of Adam and Gordon as the story moves from the sun-socked atmosphere of Venice to the
gloomy rain-socked locales of Dorset. The question remains: is Gordon in fact a cold-blooded literary murderer and serial abuser of young boys?
Is he really that capable of killing? Even more sinister, is Adam also tarred with the same brush?
The tension ratchets up and the book progressively builds as Adam begins to spin through a world of fantasy, self-delusion and even murder, intent to mold Gordon's history entirely for his own use. This is undoubtedly Adam and Gordon's exclusive cat and mouse game, where the past threatens to intrude, constantly shadowing their thoughts, obscuring their real purpose.
Inspired by the works of Patricia Highsmith, Andrew Wilson pens a truly riveting psychological thriller; the pages imbued with an eerily gothic atmosphere, the book absolutely impossible to put down until the heart-stopping climax.
The age-old enigma of vice and virtue is finally revealed, and Adam is finally forced to face the truth about Gordon
- and himself.