Review: Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Title: Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 272 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


In this “compelling, clever, and dark” (Heat magazine) thriller, a man’s shocking act of savagery stuns a local community—and the revelations that follow will keep you gripped until the very last page. This work of psychological suspense, a #1 bestseller in Ireland, is perfect for fans of Patricia Highsmith and Ruth Ware.

“I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.”

So begins Liz Nugent’s astonishing debut novel—a chilling, elegantly crafted, and psychologically astute exploration of the nature of evil.

Oliver Ryan, handsome, charismatic, and successful, has long been married to his devoted wife, Alice. Together they write and illustrate award-winning children’s books; their life together one of enviable privilege and ease—until, one evening after a delightful dinner, Oliver delivers a blow to Alice that renders her unconscious, and subsequently beats her into a coma.

In the aftermath of such an unthinkable event, as Alice hovers between life and death, the couple’s friends, neighbors, and acquaintances try to understand what could have driven Oliver to commit such a horrific act. As his story unfolds, layers are peeled away to reveal a life of shame, envy, deception, and masterful manipulation.

With its alternating points of view and deft prose, Unraveling Oliver is “a page-turning, one-sitting read from a brand new master of psychological suspense” (Sunday Independent) that details how an ordinary man can transform into a sociopath.


In Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent, Oliver Ryan’s inexplicable act of violence against his wife of more than twenty years is explored through the eyes of their acquaintances and Oliver.

Oliver Ryan is a well-liked author of children’s books that his wife Alice illustrates. She is devoted to her husband, quiet and unassuming whereas he revels in the attention he receives due to his successful career. Oliver is a bit of a  mystery even to his closest friends and acquaintances but with each subsequent chapter, a chilling portrait begins to emerge.

Initially, Oliver comes across as a very sympathetic character due to his heartrending past.  His relationship with his father is quite complex and continues to haunt him well into adulthood. Oliver suffers a few tragic losses that leave him with emotional scars that he never quite recovers from.  On the surface, his life is picture perfect.  His children’s books have become a franchise that extends well beyond the publishing world. Alice is devoted to him and although her illustrations are a huge part of his success, she would never dream of encroaching on his limelight. However, underneath Oliver’s charming, charismatic facade, He is devious, sly and extremely self-centered as he ruthlessly manipulates people and events to suit him.

Written from several different points of view,  Unraveling Oliver is a captivating character study that raises some very intriguing questions. Oliver is certainly quite intriguing but there is much more to his character than originally meets the eye.  Liz Nugent carefully conceals the motive for Oliver’s attack on Alice until the novel’s twist-filled, somewhat shocking conclusion. An excellent debut that mystery lovers are going to enjoy.

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