Facade by Helen Matthews By Helen Matthews

“The problem with wearing a façade is that sooner or later life shows up with a big pair of scissors.” I can't remember where I got this nugget from, but it certainly does sum up this particular Façade by Helen Matthews.

There's the central metaphor - the family home - seized by entropy and falling to bits, requiring too much deception, dosh and effort to keep going.

Then there's the mother. We feel called to to be on her side; so hard to cope with the loss both of a child and her husband's faculties. But she endures and we sympathise ... until we realise she nurses a destructive secret and all is not what it seems behind, well, the façade.

The fruit did not fall far from the tree in her daughter, an even greater manipulator of truth (and phone images), creator of false scenarios, a set-designer of life. But worse, much worse lies behind her dissembling. As events unfold, revealed to us are the workings of a malicious and narcissistic sociopath intent on cutting up her sister's life. To leave her with nothing.

Helen Matthews creates a claustrophobically intense web of dysfunction in this family. I found Facade compelling and infuriating in equal measure. The former because it was fascinating to see the truth unfold behind the veneer; the latter because I would definitely have taken a pair of scissors to Imogen.



Helen Matthews What a great suspense novel this is! I couldn't put it down! It is very thrilling and you keep wanting to know what happens and what happened in the past. It is a tale of two sisters, Rachel and Imogen. Imogen has been living in Ibiza with her husband Simon until he has an accident and is killed. She returns to England and we discover there is a lot of animosity between her and Rachel. Imogen believes Rachel has it all and she tries to sabotage Rachel's relationships with her husband and daughter. There is also an underlying thread of what went on in Tunisia when their parents lived over there and Imogen stayed with them as a teenager. Add to this the fact their baby brother drowned and one of them was responsible, and there is a lot to keep you in suspense!! Helen Matthews Helen Matthews reveals herself, through subtleties rather than broad brush strokes, to be a truly original writer. It is often what is not said (with the fragmented opening drawing me into the trauma of Rachel losing her brother) as much as what is said in the way characters are cleverly constructed. I found myself drawn firstly into Rachel’s world and then Imogen’s. Different points of view tease out the unique facets of each character’s life in a most illuminating way. Sibling relationships are drawn in a manner which invites us to ask questions about what makes for a secure and happy life. The plot exposes the characters in ways which confront them, and the reader, with what it is that makes up our lives. The novel is not only a brilliantly plotted thriller and character piece. From Spain to Tunisia we are taken across exotic locations in order to find out the truth about what really happened to Rachel’s brother, and in so doing the novel asks compelling questions about the stuff that our lives are made of. Helen Matthews From the moment I read the first page of this book, I was gripped - Matthew's atmospheric and visual prose plays out like a film which placed me right in the heart of this dysfunctional family and their complex relationships with one another, and indeed, themselves. This story illustrates everything I love about a good thriller - well-executed flawed characters, dark secrets, resentments and revenge which kept me up well into the early hours as I wanted to discover what really happened. Plot twists galore, Helen Matthews has crafted a riveting drama. Definitely, an author to watch, and I look forward to her next book. Helen Matthews This is a portion of the review on my blog

....I can definitely say that the book lives up to its name. There is depth and darkness in Façade. And the ending has some open ended elements to it which adds to the suspense, in my opinion. Façade was an enjoyable mystery for me. Enough suspense and intrigue to keep turning the pages....

....The author Helen Matthews’s choice of title is interesting for various reasons. The word Façade has various meanings.

The front or the ‘face’ of a building. Architecturally it is one of the most important parts. It sets the tone of the rest of the structure.
A false or superficial appearance a person presents to the outer world.
An illusion of something.
All of the above meanings have been alluded to by Helen Matthews in a cohesive whole.

The first meaning is seen in the Old Rectory. The house which hides secrets. It is crumbling but its occupants are still hosting parties in the house. Maybe in an attempt to assure others that it still stands. The house is still alive.

As mentioned in the definition, the façade of a building sets it’s whole tone. Since the occupants of the Old Rectory took pride in its magnificent façade, they are now stuck trying to present a shadow of magnificence.

Almost all the characters of this book are examples of the second definition. Façade does not simply mean hiding intense hatred like Imogen does.

Even when you are hurt if you pretend that your life is perfectly functional, that too is presenting a false appearance. Thus, even the most innocent of characters were putting up a façade. All the characters were concerned to varying degrees about how their lives superficially looked to the world.

The story of Façade at its core revolves around illusions (the 3rd definition) and their breaking down. Some illusions were of affluence and some were of love. Above all, this story sheds light on the human tendency to cling on to a Façade. In the desperate hope that these may just become a version of the truth.

We do not want illusions to break despite knowing they are far removed from reality. Perhaps because illusions are comfortable to live in.
Helen Matthews


READ Facade by Helen Matthews

Facade by Helen Matthews

This is a superb read and, here’s a warning, the ending will leave you stunned. From the moment the novel opens I was gripped by the need to know all the details about what happened in the garden of The Old Rectory on that fateful day in May 1999. The very same Georgian house which Max and Miriam, haunted by the death of their infant son, steadfastly refuse to leave twenty years later even though its upkeep is destroying their family – especially their daughter, Rachel. It is only on the last page of this book that the whole truth is revealed and what a twisted journey this is! I relished every minute of it.

At the heart of this cleverly plotted thriller are several interlocking mysteries which question the importance of family. All the way through, the narrative reveals the trail of destruction that harbouring secrets and resentment can cause. It is also a story about duty, loss and the need for atonement. As I was reading it, I was filled with a nagging sense that all the tiny incidents happening throughout were going to collide and cause a huge explosion.

The narrative splits between sisters Imogen and Rachel both now grown women. Tragedy has meant Imogen is now alone, whilst Rachel shares her life with her partner, Jack and their daughter Hannah. The present-day story starts when Imogen, the older of the two sisters, returns home after a terrible incident in Ibiza. Whereas she could have used this opportunity to reconnect with Rachel and accept the love and sympathy her parents, Miriam and Max, want to give her, she decides she would rather drip-feed revenge upon them all. The story splits between the unfolding present-day events and flashbacks to the past which unravel the reasons for the present ill-feeling.

Two thirds of the way through of this family drama, the whole thing ramps up a notch and I sped through to the end. Just when I thought I had figured everything out I was hit with a massive twist which I did not see coming at all. And the revelations don’t stop there; Matthews keeps piling them on and the reward – a very, very satisfying ending to a marvellous book.
Helen Matthews This is the author's third book. The first two deserve five star ratings so that puts me in a bit of a quandry.

Façade is without doubt her best book . It has to be five star +.

As a bookseller I always fought against the tyranny and use of genres but to explain this to you without giving any spoilers I am going to have to classify this as Family Noir.

Every family has hidden secrets, but these are full of potential for harm. If you want some idea of the content then read the back matter. Suffice it to say that the slow burn of revelations builds wonderfully right until the very last page. Helen Matthews drops in elements of back story at just the right time to keep you intrigued and wanting to know more.

The complications and layers build slowly, but not necessarily in the way you expect. There are clever elements of misinformation, misunderstanding and misdirection built in.

I was asked if this was a woman’s book. To my mind it is not; what it is is a book for people who are interested in people and the destructively tangled lives that we sometimes weave for ourselves. Helen Matthews Matthews weaves and intricate tale of hidden truths, deceit, and revenge. It is a well-paced, well written family mystery.

The story is told from the viewpoints of the two sisters, Rachel and Imogen, and moves from the present to past in timely episodic flashbacks. The novel kicks off in the family setting of The Old Rectory where the sister’s parents live (Max and Miriam), and where years before tragedy had struck. Imogen returns home from Ibiza after the accidently death of her partner, but we soon come to realise that she has little concern for his death and holds on to a particular burning resentment for her sister - one that she intends to act on.

As the story unfolds the family’s complex and interweaved emotions and behaviours emerge. Hate, loss, guilt, resentment are all played out through the pages, ebbing and flowing, driving us towards an unexpected conclusion.

It was a pleasure to read, each revelation adding to the complexity which kept you thinking, and I loved the twisted ending. More please.
Helen Matthews At first, you think you know these characters. Affluent, property-developing world travellers. Not people I normally feel much sympathy for, if I’m honest.

But the further you get into this dark family saga, the more you feel their pain: The dementia-ravaged father, the grief-wearied mother, and the sisters—one over-worked and guilt-ridden, the other eaten up by long-held bitterness. Each one plays their part in the unravelling of secrets, plot twists and gut wrenches. As a reader we get a ringside view of it all. A deliciously compelling drama. What a treat! Helen Matthews Every now and again, I read a book of which I have no expectations. The title is ambiguous, the author is new to me and I am just curious to read a novel from my ‘To Be Read’ pile. Facade by Helen Mattews fell exactly into this category.

The Blurb

A drowned child. Estranged sisters. A once-perfect home.

Silence echoes louder than truth.

When seventeen-year-old Rachel’s baby brother drowns and her older sister, Imogen, escapes to live abroad with Simon, her musician boyfriend, Rachel must face the family’s grief and disintegration alone.

Twenty years later, Rachel is a successful businesswoman, with a daughter of her own, supporting her parents and their elegant Georgian home, The Old Rectory, that shackles them to the past.

Simon’s sudden death in Ibiza brings Imogen back, impoverished and resentful. Her family owes her, and she will stop at nothing to reclaim what she believes is rightly hers.

The rift between the sisters seems permanent. While Imogen has lived a nomadic life, filled with intrigue, in Spain and Tunisia, Rachel’s has appeared stable and successful but, behind the veneer, cracks are appearing. Now, she is vulnerable.

As the wall of silence and secrecy crumbles, danger stalks Rachel’s family. She must re-examine her baby brother’s death, find out what happened in Tunisia, and fight to hold onto everything she’s achieved –or risk losing it all.

Façade is a gripping tale of loss, guilt and danger.

The Review

Facade is a novel where the story builds slowly. Each chapter adds an extra layer, an extra question, an extra red herring. It is a gripping novel that you will not want to put down because the story of the family is intense and fascinating. The author reels you in with a skill and expertise that belies the fact that this is only her third novel.

The novel tells the story of the Steatham family where assumptions, tragedy and lies weave a tight web of resentment, jealousy and fear. Rachel’s business is successful, but the secrets she keeps from her family cause friction. Imogen seems to lead the good life but happiness eludes her. Their mother holds more family secrets than anybody knows and their father is losing his grip on reality altogether.

This toxic combination is teased out by the author to produce one of the best books I have read all year. I would recommend Facade for book groups, and for those who enjoy novels by Erin Kelly, Sophie Hannah and Katharine Johnson. It is an excellent book and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Author

I’m delighted to announce my new psychological suspense novel Facade was published on 17 September 2020 by darkstroke, an imprint of Crooked Cat Books. It’s available now in ebook and paperback. Find it on Amazon.

‘Lies Behind the Ruin’ published in 2019 is a family story combining suspense and domestic noir set in France. It’s available from Amazon and all good bookshops.

My debut suspense thriller ‘After Leaving the Village’ was published on 12th October by Hashtag Press. It won first prize in the opening pages of a novel category at Winchester Writers’ Festival.

I’m originally from Cardiff, studied English at Liverpool University and hold an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes. I’ve won prizes for flash fiction and short stories and been published in ‘Artificium’, Reflex Fiction, 1k story, ElipsisZine, Love Sunday, Scribble and in an eBook ‘Garage 54 and other stories’.

Long ago in a galaxy far away (before I focused on fiction) I had some articles published in the Guardian, on the BBC and in lifestyle magazines. I love travelling and you can read about some quirky encounters and places on my blog. I’m an ambassador for the charity, Unseen, that fights to end modern slavery.

Val Penny Helen Matthews