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Unraveling Oliver

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

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, neighbours, 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.

260 pages, Hardcover

First published March 6, 2014

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About the author

Liz Nugent

9 books2,639 followers
Liz Nugent worked as a stage manager in theatres in Ireland and toured internationally before writing extensively for radio and television drama.

Unravelling Oliver was published in 2014, hit the number 1 spot for several weeks and won Crime Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards.

Lying in Wait, published in 2016, went straight to number 1 and was chosen for the Richard & Judy Book Club. It won the Radio 1 Ryan Tubridy Listeners Choice Award at the Irish Book Awards.

In October 2017, Liz won the Irish Tatler Woman of the Year Award in Literature.

Skin Deep was published in 2018. It also went straight to number 1 in the bestsellers charts and scooped two awards at the An Post Irish Book Awards in Nov '18: Crime Novel of the Year AND the Radio 1 Ryan Tubridy Listener's Choice Award.

Little Cruelties (Our Little Cruelties) was published in 2020. Another number 1 bestseller, it topped the charts for fifteen weeks, was nominated for Crime Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards, long listed for a CWA award at Theakston Crime Festival at Harrogate. It was listed as one of the most recommended thrillers of the Year by the New York Times.
Liz was presented with the James Joyce Medal for Literature (via Zoom!) in February 21 and was a Guest of Honour at Iceland Noir in November 21.

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5 stars
5,501 (24%)
4 stars
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3 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,753 reviews
Profile Image for Melissa.
647 reviews28.7k followers
August 28, 2017
Gripping psychological thriller this is not.
A character study of sorts—one that offers very few surprises—is more like it.

The downfall of this novel, in my opinion, is the shocking opening line that’s not only used as bait in the synopsis to grab the reader’s attention, but somehow remains the most interesting part of Unraveling Oliver. Meaning, the story is on a downhill trajectory from line one-

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

The author puts forth a valiant effort, luring the reader in and attempting to illicit some type of connection to the characters. Getting us to jump on board and join the search for answers, the most obvious being—what made Oliver snap and beat his wife into a comatose state? I’ll admit, until about halfway through the book, I was a willing passenger on the crazy train, caught up in the ‘unraveling’. At some point, the storyline started to feel stagnant though. Repetitive. Flat. Even a tad boring. I found myself desperately clinging to the hope that something good was coming—something gut-wrenching, depraved or even noteworthy enough to live up to the powerful opening. Well, don’t hold your breath.

The author sets out to examine Oliver’s psyche through those ‘closest’ to him or those that had some sort of impact on his life, but it’s a lot of regurgitation of information. There’s more telling, as opposed to showing, and quite a bit of repetition. The author lays out almost the entire storyline with the first chapter from each character’s perspective and then circles back to piece it all together and render the hidden truth. The problem is, Oliver’s existence isn’t all that interesting. There’s nothing here that hasn’t been done in some form before.

The whole idea was to dig deep and discover what made Oliver tick—what went into the creation of this warped individual—but the story lacked personality on some level. I can't help but to feel the author didn't give us enough of Oliver to work with. He was the most interesting of what I considered to be a lackluster bunch, so why weren't there more chapters from his perspective?

This isn't a book I would recommend for someone looking to be caught off guard with unforeseen twists or craving a book that leaves them hovering on the edge of their seat in anticipation of what's to come. This just isn't that type of story. However, I imagine there must be readers out there that enjoy a slower-paced and less thrilling ride than I do. If that happens to be you, consider spending some time with Oliver or rather, those who think they have some insight into who he is, and draw your own conclusions.

*Thank you to Gallery/Scout Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Kaceey.
1,128 reviews3,714 followers
February 20, 2018
5 bright stars⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

When a book lingers with you, like a delicious dessert, even hours after you’ve finished. When you continually re-play each and every chapter in your mind, long after you’ve turned the final page. That’s what makes a memorable five-star read.

A beautifully written debut novel that drew me in from the start and wouldn’t let go until the final sentence!
I’m left with the feeling that I’ve been on a wild journey, transported deep into the mind of a tragically damaged soul.

Oliver struggled growing up in a boarding school, run through the Catholic Church. Rejected by his father, his lonely existence becoming more painful by the day. All the while, watching his family and friends living normal, satisfied lives.
Then suddenly, and with seemingly no warning, Oliver brutally strikes out against his wife, leaving everyone stunned and looking for answers.

This book is an example of an outstanding character dissection. Told through multiple POV’s from those who knew Oliver during the course of his entire life, as well as from Oliver himself. Every step of the way - from childhood through college to adulthood and marriage. I was spellbound throughout!

When you pull on the wrong string... things have a tendency to unravel....

Liz Nugent writes with such a graceful flair. I highly recommend! Now anxiously looking forward to reading Ms. Nugent’s two follow up releases - Lying in Wait and Skin Deep.

Thank you to Goodreads giveaways, Scout Press - Gallery Books - Simon & Schuster and Liz Nugent.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews605 followers
November 22, 2017
Like peeling of an onion....Oliver Ryan gets unraveled. I was intrigued from start to finish.
There’s an atmosphere around the entire mystery- itself - that is mysterious.

The craftsmanship is superb. I was curious- engaged - judging & evaluating - and turning those pages - not wanting to miss anything. I wanted to hear what every person had to say - I was genuinely interested.

Overall ... I feel this is a very sad story....( minus a few happy highlights for a few characters - for which I’m glad), .... but I’m not sure ‘emotions’ are what readers will focus on when they chat about this book. ..... yet it’s ‘the feelings’ I’m left sitting with.

I’m even considering the plausibility of this story...and I ‘do’ think its possible that some of the things that happened, could very well be somebody’s true tale.

Since this is a VERY ZERO SPOILER - non descriptive review - if anybody has more specific questions they want to ask me about this novel - I’m happy to answer.....

But mostly .... I simply recommend it. It’s a quick - engaging read with Oliver in the center.....a thought-provoking look at the development and makings of a character.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.6k followers
August 8, 2020
everything you need to know about this book is in the title and the synopsis.

the story begins with oliver beating his wife into a coma. the remaining chapters are POVs of people who know oliver, little threads from his past, who provide insight and unravel his tangled history, until the reader is able to isolate the one thread that finally caused oliver to snap.

this is not a thriller - its a psychological character study, one that is mysteriously woven and chaotically unravelled through years of irish history, leading to one mans secret being discovered.

short, gripping, creative, and easily recommendable.

4 stars
Profile Image for Lindsay L.
679 reviews1,324 followers
March 14, 2018
4.5 stars! Clever! Gripping! Addictive! Wow – this was really good!

The very first sentence in this novel jaw-droppingly sucked me right into this story. I couldn’t put this book down!

The story revolves around Oliver Ryan – a highly successful children’s author who is married to Alice, the illustrator of his famous children’s series. Told from multiple characters perspectives, this novel unfolds brilliantly. Each character added a new dimension of intrigue and suspense, each revealing clues along the way. The suspense and intensity consistently kept me completely drawn into this story.

The only thing I would have liked to see done differently is that I would have loved to get Alice’s perspective. I think that would have added a compelling layer to this intriguing story.

This is my first book by this author, Liz Nugent, and I can’t wait to read more of her work!

A big thank you to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster Canada and Liz Nugent for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Debra .
2,422 reviews35.2k followers
November 12, 2018
"I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her."

Oliver Ryan is a handsome successful Author of children's books. His wife, Alice illustrated his books for him. Oliver and Alice have been married a long time and appear to be happy, so what made him snap and hit her. What caused this man, after having a wonderful dinner, to beat his wife into a coma?

What indeed!

This book is told through various character's POV as they try to come to terms with what Oliver has done. All look back upon their relationship with Oliver. Each giving a brief look into his/her interactions with Oliver and what made Oliver tick. Each person has some small revelation, which added together, really depict the unraveling 'of' Oliver. Great title for the book, by the way.

I found this book to be an interesting character study of one man and the many layers of his life. The book shows how the events in his past led to the actions he takes after dinner one night. When I began this book, I felt as if I had read it before. It seemed so familiar, but I can't place why that is. Either way, I found the book to be entertaining. I thought the pacing was spot on. This book is neither to fast nor is it too slow. I enjoyed learning about all the characters interactions with Oliver.

This is a great book for book clubs as there is a lot to discuss with this book - nature vs. nurture, good vs. evil, infidelity, pregnancy, abuse, faith, lack-of-love, lies, deception, etc.
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,168 reviews37.3k followers
December 17, 2019
4.25 Stars!

Holy Mackerel! I had heard that this was sick and twisted .. but THIS, is SERIOUSLY SICK and TWISTED BATMAN!

What else can I say?: Oliver is whack! And not in a good way (obv.). Let’s hope I don’t meet his equal anytime soon! Poor, poor Alice!

My parting thoughts:

“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign…Do this.. don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?” - Five Man Electrical Band

Thanks to my local library for the audiobook. The narration was stellar!

Published on Goodreads on 12.16.19.
November 29, 2018
Sociopaths and psychopaths fascinate me and I love a great story that delves deep into the mind or actions of both.  After reading Lying in Wait I really became fascinated with what makes a sociopath. Well, Liz Nugent answers that question here for me with our sociopath Oliver.

Unraveling Oliver is a chilling, unique, intelligent and very fascinating look into what makes a sociopath.  The story starts off with a bang with that chilling and intriguing first line that had me hooked and I flew through this one as fast as I could to find out what lead up to that chilling first line.  
The story isn’t a whodunnit or not necessary a whydunnit but I would say more of a how did that happen dunnit. Liz Nugent brilliantly takes us back through flashbacks to what might have been the start to Oliver’s unraveling.  Through the POV of the people in his life, Liz Nugent unravels what might have shaped him into a manipulating, cruel and abusive person he was. With each character’s POV, I became more engaged in the story and intrigued by Oliver.

Liz Nugent does such a great job here creating and developing some very compelling characters.  The characters are different from each other adding more layers to the story as we see their POVs.  I enjoyed learning about Oliver through each character. I loved everything about this one from start to finish and I highly recommend.
Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,606 reviews5,990 followers
August 10, 2017
I saw the advertised opening line of this book.
I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.
I'm a total weirdo and immediately wanted it.

Oliver is a bit of a nutter, he is a very successful children's author who likes things just so in his life. He gives no thoughts to whether his wife or anyone around him have feelings. He just doesn't have time for that.
So when he finally snaps off his rocker and beats his wife into a coma (not a spoiler) we have to take a look back at his life.

And the first few chapters are pretty dark and juicy. Then you start hearing all about Oliver's past and the author kinda tries to make you feel sorry for him at times. (I didn't but I'm a heifer.) I got bored with how the story started going along a predictable path. (yes, I know I suck.)

I'll keep reading the dark stuff because when one is good..You. It's really good.
But when they are bad..

Booksource: Netgalley in exchange for review.
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,157 followers
April 28, 2017
UNRAVELLING OLIVER......Perfect Title!

The story begins with a horrific crime, and it takes the entire (short) novel to unwind the whole truth about why the oh. so. handsome. Oliver beat his wife into a coma. (no spoiler here)......Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I was totally engaged by the way Liz Nugent set the stage and lay out her facts describing how Oliver turned out to be a monster.

As we meet all the players in his life, we find Oliver did endure some tough times as a youngster, and does discover a shocking truth as he grows older, but all of what he does to others does not excuse his deceitful, cruel and just plain nasty actions.

Interesting characters. (loved Eugene) Interesting story. Enjoyed it!

Profile Image for Julie .
4,078 reviews59k followers
March 20, 2022
Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent is a 2017 Scout Press publication.

This is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for years. I’ve bumped it up to the top of the heap several times, but it always slipped back down again. Now that it has reached my new five-year cut off mark, I had to either read it or delete it. I didn’t even have to think about it- there was no way I was going to delete this one after hearing so much about it.

This book starts off with a startling pronouncement and hooks one into the story right away. Employing several points of view and covering a few different timelines, the story is about a man who was shunned by his father but made a profound bond with a family in France.

Later, he marries Alice and becomes a famous author. But then he perpetrates an incredible act of violence upon Alice, causing his story to finally unravel- while Oliver himself chimes in to tell his side of the story.

This must be my month for character studies. While categorized as a thriller, the story has no guessing games, no clever twists, or chills and thrills. In fact, it is a no frills show from start to finish. This didn't stymie my interest, though, as the book is easy to read and hard to put aside.

Is Oliver’s narrative reliable? Would his life be different if he had been raised differently? Was he born a sociopath or did her descend into the definition of evil through the events that lead up to his act of violence against his wife?

For such a short novel, there is a lot to unpack. The approach the author takes, though, is perhaps a bit too spare. The contributing characters are nearly as staid as Oliver in his matter-of-fact narrative, which prevents the reader form becoming emotionally engaged, though this method does sharpen the absence of Alice's voice.

The revelations are well-timed, and the story is thought-provoking, but not quite what I was anticipating. I’m still glad I finally got around to reading this book, though. I wasn't as impressed as most people were, but the novel did pack a good punch, I must admit.

Overall, a solid enough crime novel, but an even better character study!

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,782 reviews14.2k followers
January 29, 2015
3.5 Finished this yesterday and have thought about it on and off since then. The opening is such a grabber, an act of violence seemingly out of the blue, but in intimate situations things seldom work that way. So what caused this, what led up to this? We hear from the many people influenced by the life of Oliver, the people closest to him, the people who knew him in various stages of his life. What makes a man who could act so violently.

Makes one think. I felt different ways about Oliver, in different time frames, I actually felt sorry for him for much of this book. Still not sure how I ended up feeling about him by the end, dislike, tinged with pity and an understanding of how he came to be what he was. Not that it excuses anything, he was still the cause of some horrific damage.

A good psychological study that will give one much to think about and discuss. Quite good for a first novel and I look forward to her next.
Profile Image for Katie B.
1,351 reviews3,006 followers
February 26, 2019
I'm kinda blown away with how the author managed to take a fairly simple idea for a story and end up with a book that had me hooked from start to finish. You basically know how the story ends from the beginning, but yet you still have this compelling urge to read and find out everything that led up to it. You definitely have some writing chops if you can successfully pull that off and given this is the second book I have read written by the author and loved, I think she is quite talented.

Oliver is a successful author of children's books and his wife, Alice, does the illustrations. One night he brutally assaults Alice. The story is told from the perspectives of Oliver and those who know him. Key moments in his life dating all the way back to his childhood are slowly revealed and eventually you get the whole picture of the type of man who would attack his wife.

This book might be best classified as just regular fiction although it does have some mystery and psychological thriller elements to it as well. Don't go into this one thinking you are going to be knocked off your socks with plot twists as that's not really the purpose of this book. That's not to say I knew everything that would happen ahead of time in the story, but this is much more about examining a character rather than trying to throw curveball after curveball at the reader. The title of the book is spot on.

I can't say enough good things about this book. Just read it.
Profile Image for Erin.
3,094 reviews484 followers
April 19, 2018
3. 83 unnerving stars

Yesterday at work, my co-worker placed this into my hands and told me during our ice storm day that she had read this book in one sitting. Last night, so did I. Reading the first line, I knew that I was hooked.

I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her. She just lay on the floor, holding her jaw. Staring at me. Silent. She didn't even seem to be surprised.

Each chapter alternates between several characters all wanting to fill us in on the subject of the book, Oliver Ryan, and all the secrets that he has kept buried. Definitely a compulsive read and I stayed up past my bedtime to "unravel Oliver." I do read so many "psychological thrillers" and found myself not writing a review right away- it's a well written dark and twisty thriller, but I am not sure that it "messed with my head" quite to the extent that others with this label have done.

However, if you're looking for a book that will keep you up past your bedtime, I would certainly recommend.
Profile Image for Arah-Lynda.
337 reviews533 followers
February 18, 2018
I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her. She just lay on the floor, holding her jaw. Staring at me. Silent. She didn’t even seem to be surprised.

Meet Oliver Ryan, handsome, successful, married. His story starts out hard, fast and provocative.

But to better understand him and what brought him to this point we need to go back and learn something of who he is. In the process we will meet “family”, “friends” and acquaintances.

Perhaps it says more about me than it does the story when I say that there was nothing that really surprised me here. Predictable even. Perhaps because what did happen here is not only possible but plausible as well.

Unraveling Oliver is a well written, psychological profile. If you are looking for gruesome, red herrings or surprise twists, they are not to be found here. Much of what makes this story so compelling is that it is deeply anchored in the real world of possibility.

I am reminded of something J.K. Rowling said:

If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.

The real threats in this world are far more frightening than any make believe, magical or mythological ones.

And they’re here.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster, NetGalley and Liz Nugent for an opportunity to read and review this book.
Profile Image for Dem.
1,190 reviews1,131 followers
February 13, 2019
4.5 Stars for this highly entertaining and original debut novel by Liz Nugent.

" Oliver Ryan is a handsome and charismatic success story. He lives a life of enviable privilege and ease with his wife. Alice. Enviable until one evening after dinner, Oliver attacks Alice so viciously that he beats her into a coma"

After reading the blurb of this novel I wasn't sure I wanted to read this book and the first sentence of the book left me a little shell shocked.

I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her. She just lay on the floor holding her jaw. Staring at me. Silent. She didn't even seen to be surprised.

Firstly let me assure the reader that this author really knows how to tell a story without shocking the reader with graphic scenes of violence or abuse and yet this novel is original and stunning in terms of plot and writing. The title Unravelling Oliver is exactly what the book sets out to do and throughout the journey of the novel we meet some very interesting characters and are given their insights in Oliver as a child and man.

I read this for a book club read and I think it will be a wonderful discussion book as there is so much going on in this story. The characters are superbly drawn, the plot original and the writing is of a high standard.

A short book with only 230 pages but Liz Nugent certainly packs a punch with this debut novel.

A great book-club read and a book to pack for the holidays.

Just to update this was an excellent book club discussion book that generated 1.5 hours of discussion.
Profile Image for Jonetta.
2,243 reviews968 followers
December 1, 2018
The first sentence knocks you off your feet and has you latch on until the end. Oliver Ryan has just slugged his wife Alice and surprises himself but not in ways you may think. The rest of the story is a journey back in time to learn more about how Oliver and Alice arrived at this point.

It’s not always a traditionally linear look back but it’s never, ever confusing. Sort of like how someone would tell a story and take detours that matter and make the telling more engaging. There are quite a few characters taking the narrative and I’m so very, very glad multiple narrators were used in the audio performance. They all seemed to nail their characters (personality, attitudes, accents and dialects) and I always knew who was sharing. The story itself was just fascinating, challenging my opinion of Oliver at very juncture and ending with me having mixed feelings about him, even fighting with myself about where I landed.

This would be an excellent book for discussion and I wish I’d partnered with someone. It’s hard to believe this is a debut novel as the writing is seamless and the charactizations are outstanding. While it’s pretty short, it definitely unravels Oliver almost perfectly as well as most of those who came within his orbit. I highly recommend this psychological thriller as it surpassed all my expectations. And, don’t miss the opportunity to listen to it if you decide to add it to your shelf. That experience was excellent and I finished it in one day.
Profile Image for Maria Espadinha.
1,028 reviews373 followers
September 14, 2021
Os Filhos Das Trevas

Oliver é Frio, Cruel, Egocêntrico, Imoral!...
Geneticamente? Ou será mais um filho da podridão social?

A Alma humana é uma balança onde Bem e Mal coexistem num equilíbrio periclitante.
Situações de rejeição, maus tratos e abandono alimentam-lhe o lado negro!
Porém, se fôr o amor a nutri-la, irá pender naturalmente para o seu lado melhor!

Oliver não se apresenta como um ser apenas a odiar, pois iremos assistir, passo a passo, à génese dum monstro.
Iremos odiá-lo, mas também ( e aqui muitos irão franzir o cenho ) compreendê-lo!...

Regra geral, os sociopatas nascem nos pântanos da sociedade. Reflectem a sujidade onde cresceram, confrontando-nos com a podridão do nosso Colectivo.
São os Filhos das Trevas que criámos!...

Uma trama bem urdida que redundou numa leitura altamente viciante!!!
Dêem-lhe uma oportunidade que não se arrependerão — digo-o com toda a convicção😉
É um 4+++
Profile Image for Kim ~ It’s All About the Thrill.
572 reviews618 followers
November 14, 2018
Wow! Where to begin?! I loved this book! Holy flipping crap! ALL the stars for Oliver! I went into this thinking of course I would like it, since it is Liz Nugent and she did blow me away with Lying in Wait. Dare I say I liked Unraveling Oliver even better than Lying in Wait?! I did!! I read this with a group of Traveling Sisters/Traveling Friends. So far everyone loved it. I mean, what is not to love?! I am so glad we read this together because I literally had to "freak out" a couple of times.

Okay, I am going to try to keep the fangirling under control here, because I just am loving Nugent's writing style. This book has a gritty, sarcastic undertone that is quite hilarious. Mind you, the situation is not funny but my god I laughed out loud so many times with the one liners. I work in the Emergency Room as a nurse and admittedly we tend to have a "dark humor." This defiantly has a tinge of dark humor to it and maybe that is why I can't get enough of these wonderful witty lines.

Don't get me wrong, this is not a humorous book by no means. Oliver Ryan is a troubled and violent human being. There is no secret made of that as the book opens with him beating his wife into a coma. " I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her." Yep that is quite the opening line, is it not? If you read Lying in Wait you know how gripping her books are right from the start.

This book has the perfect title. You will understand once you start getting into the book. Each chapter is told from a different person's POV and each chapter reveals more to what is the foundation of Oliver's personality. What makes him tick and why he is the way he is. Make no mistake here, I am not defending his behavior, which was twisted and horrible to the core. I must say a small part of me did understand how he turned out the way he did.

I am going to leave it at that and let you read this for yourself. Hands down in my top 5 of the year for books. Lying in Wait also. Now......let me get my hands on Skin Deep!! Not out in the US yet so I may have to put in a UK order! I can not wait!
Profile Image for Simra Sadaf.
71 reviews35 followers
February 23, 2018
Oliver and Alice, seem like a normal couple, until one evening when Oliver physically assaults Alice to the point where he puts her into a coma. Unraveling Oliver begins with a forceful and intriguing line which was enough to make me read the book, "I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her."

The book is narrated from the perspective of multiple characters that solves the puzzle of the mysterious Oliver. As we go through the chapters, we find out the reasons as to why he is a narcissistic, unstable sociopath. Oliver's childhood story is heart wrenching and extremely disturbing, but that does not excuse his cruel and deceitful actions. Liz Nugent weaved a character, who on one side, is a glittering and successful writer of children's book, and on the other side, suddenly jumps into the brutality of what he has done and the kind of monster he has become over time, which makes the book an interesting psychological suspense. The book is a page turner, although I would have loved to read Alice's point of view. The rest of the characters were equally interesting and neatly written.

The book is twisted and kept me hooked throughout. I was hoping for the ending to be just as good and I was not disappointed. An extra star for Liz Nugent for narrating the story in a creatively different way. Unraveling Oliver is a short, unsettling and a dark whydunnit. A must read for mystery lovers.
Profile Image for Sue.
2,729 reviews222 followers
April 23, 2015

This book has been at my side since last night until I finished it this afternoon sat in the car outside of the Supermarket!
Talk about addicted.

Unravelling Oliver.

I wondered about the title. But I have discovered its very apt for the story. Really good, Oliver is like and onion, several layers of him, and the more you take one off, the more there is beneath. Never ends. Getting to the core takes time.
I think that is where the word " protagonist" comes into play.

The dramatic start to this book was awesome, we see how Oliver beats his wife so badly. So bad, he puts her into a coma.

Oliver is a children's author. I have no idea why my concept would be WHAT? Because I always imagine an author writing books for children would be meek, mild and kind [dunno where I got the idea from! funny what goes through your mind]
Oliver definitely wasn't portraying himself as one so nice, was he!

We learn from Oliver himself how his life was growing up in Ireland with his family. It wasn't good, its help mold him into the kind of person he is today.

I thought him shallow. I thought him vicious.
I didn't like him, not one bit.

But as the layers come off of Oliver, I just wasn't sure if he just couldn't help it, or he was blind to his own faults.

There were some sentences in there that did make me laugh out loud. Some of the thoughts that rambled through his head.
For instance, the talk of a woman's menstrual cycle was sickening to him.....the way he passed it off.

Then the old fashioned doiley type covers over an old persons table. I could just picture it.

I personally found Oliver a cold unemotional type of person, a step back from things.
I'm still wondering if its him, or his upbringing.

As we go along we see different people who have touched his life, they account how Oliver was with them.
Each had an opinion of Oliver, some good, some not so good, some bad.
ALL making up Oliver. Oliver and his many layers.

All this leads back to the beginning of the book where it started.

The vicious attack on Alice, his wife.

BRILLIANT book. Highly recommended.

Its writing for me was unique, I felt like I knew these people who were telling me about Oliver, I also felt like Oliver was leading me around his past life.

My hat goes off to Liz Nugent, excellent read!

Let me thank Penguin Books (UK) via Net Galley for this book, also Liz Nugent's PA who sent me the paperback via emailing me. Now I have both to treasure
Profile Image for Linda.
1,288 reviews1,329 followers
February 7, 2018
"They would capture the sunlight in their cloaks and smuggle it back to their kingdom and share it with their people."

And yet there was no warmth of that sun falling upon Oliver even from an early age. You might even say that Oliver, himself, blocked the sun from shining on those in his circle. No light....no life.

Liz Nugent presents the arc of the wheel turning in a completely different direction than most novels dealing with sociopathic behavior. Instead of a straight-on story concentrating solely on Oliver and his off-the-charts behavior, we are introduced to a myriad of characters whose lives either contribute in some way or are affected mightily by the presence of Oliver in their lives. Each chapter reveals a bit of a character study and the inner thoughts of those who thought they knew Oliver well.

On the very first page we are struck with the bolt of Oliver's psychotic intensity with his wife Alice. It is a jarring introduction to this story. As you turn pages you are struck by the fact that Oliver is a successful writer of children's books and Alice does the illustrations for them. You whip your head back to this page in disbelief. The gentleness of children's stories suddenly slams into the brutality of what this man has just done.

And, suddenly, the real world opens the door with an unsettling creeking sound as we call to mind all the stories we have read online or in newspapers. Someone, somewhere knew this person from childhood into young adulthood. Someone, somewhere had a story to tell but failed to reveal their puzzle piece. The photo in the paper after a crime is just a facade.....a window covering that hides the deeply wicked. Because Oliver was oh so good at hiding what lurked beneath the surface.

Through the point of view chapters we are given the dots that should have been connected early on. No one who ever came in contact with Oliver will ever be the same. The storyline reveals those who had a heavy role in all this and those at the horrendous receiving end of Oliver's existence. Makes you kinda look over your shoulder and wonder how many Olivers are living in the radius of your own existence?
Profile Image for *TANYA*.
1,002 reviews313 followers
November 20, 2017
4.5 stars. I was pleasantly surprised by this book. The story was very good, I wanted to slap the sh*t out of Oliver a time or two. I wanted Alice’s POV.
Profile Image for Zoeytron.
1,036 reviews692 followers
February 20, 2021
The opening line grabbed me right by the ying-yang and we were off to the races.  For about a minute.

Oliver Ryan is a good looking, well-to-do author of children's books.  We know something is "off" about him, though.  He doesn't seem to have any friends and his dislike for old people is intense.  Oh, and he has just hit his wife.  On the inside, Oliver is a twisted snarl of ugliness.  Invisible wounds, a soul sullied by secrets.  We find out about him, unraveling the nasty tangles one by one.  But by the time he comes undone, I just didn't care.
Profile Image for Nazanin.
1,102 reviews635 followers
May 5, 2018
3 Stars

In this story we read about Oliver’s life from his friends, Oliver himself and his family’s POV, so it’s journal-like. I’m not a fan of this writing-style but still, I read it till the end. But it wasn’t my main issue! This story didn’t thrill me! It wasn’t exciting! And at some point, it was a bit repetitive! Told in multiple POV, 1st person. It’s a standalone novel. It was an okay read, nothing really special to me, hope you enjoy it!
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,326 reviews2,145 followers
September 20, 2018
A fascinating and unusual book in that the crime is made clear in the very first chapter. The rest of it is comprised of stories from the past and other people's impressions of what occurred to make Oliver who he was.

It was all beautifully constructed and very well written. There were a lot of different characters and all of them were well rounded and contributed vital information. Everything tied up brilliantly. A few moments stood out such as the issue with Laura's baby. As the reader we have enough clues to know exactly what has happened.

Unraveling Oliver is not really a thriller - it is far too comfortable for that. It is more a psychological study of someone with an incomplete understanding of what it is to be a human being in society. The title is perfect. Oliver certainly does unravel, but I did not feel sorry for him, despite the fact that he was the product of his sad upbringing. He did so much damage to so many people. A really enjoyable book.

Profile Image for Maxine (Booklover Catlady).
1,320 reviews1,252 followers
July 27, 2018
Astonishingly good! What a very well written novel this is. I was so glad I won it via Goodreads First Reads, very happy to be able to read and review it.

It's not easy to pull off a novel that has individual chapters covering the perspective of numerous characters and still maintains fluidity. This one does, it does it really well.

Oliver, we meet at the start of the book, he's just put his wife Alice in hospital through a violent beating. We go from there on a journey into what MADE Oliver the man/monster that he has become, for me it brought up memories of studying nurture vs nature topics at times in my life. What made Oliver be this way? Why did he snap?

With intricate care we hear from the memories of multiple people who have had Oliver touch their lives in one way or the other, it begins to paint a picture of how others see him and what he is all about. It's also cleverly done so that the WHOLE picture does not come together until the very end.

Every character in this book has it's own voice, a strong voice and I connected with them all in different ways. I could "see" each of them and felt like I was in a room talking with them, sipping coffee, hearing their story of their own lives and their encounters and opinions of Oliver.

It's a psychological journey of sorts as the pieces fit together, I had a few shocked moments as the reader with some reveals in this book, a few moments of "you have got to be kidding me" that left me reeling from the dawning of understanding that was hitting me. Boom! Hit me in the face with it.

A unique and enthralling, engaging read that delves into the psyche of one man/monster and the spiders web of people that he has touched/trapped over the years. I felt mixed emotions about him as a character overall, changing with the flow of the book. I have known men like Oliver, you might have too. You have to watch for those ones you know.

A fantastic and interesting, refreshing book.
Profile Image for Marialyce (on our way to Venice).
2,038 reviews709 followers
April 20, 2018
3 high on the creep factor stars

Oliver Ryan had a sad life, a father who shunned him, a mother he never knew, and his life was a tragedy in the making. As Oliver relates his story, the details come flowing out in chapters voicing his character. His story begins with his vicious attack on his wife, Alice. Then is subsequent chapters told in the first person, we hear of Oliver's former friends, his connection to a family, his lovers, and the apparent why of his actions. Oliver seems clueless as if lacking a soul to see into the depth of himself. He rationalizes, plans, projects, and as he now a famous children's author, Vincent Dax, we learn of the how and the why of his somewhat fatal nature. He is definitely not a nice guy!

It is hard to feel sorrow for his actions, but somewhat easy to feel sorrow for what made Oliver who he was. This book was nicely creepy and as the suspense builds to its conclusion, Ms Nugent is able to show the reader a side of Oliver that perhaps we never would think him capable of.

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