Monday, November 26, 2018

SWEET LITTLE LIES Is a Great Debut Novel from Cas Frear

At the center of this excellent debut novel is a twenty-six-year-old London police woman named Cat Kinsella. Estranged from her family, her father in particular, she lives alone in a tiny room, devoting her life to her work as a homicide detective while she's haunted by developments that occurred eighteen years earlier when she was a child on vacation with her family in Ireland.

While on that vacation, Cat and her older sister, Jacqui, struck up a friendship with a budding teenage girl named Maryanne Doyle. Just before Cat's family left Ireland, Maryanne suddenly disappeared, never to be seen again. Cat knows that her randy father, a tavern owner and a minor fixer for a crime boss, had been with Maryanne just before she disappeared, although her father steadfastly denied it when the family was questioned by the police in the wake of Maryanne's disappearance. In the years since, Cat has been tormented by the fear that her father may have had something to do with the girl going missing. This has been the source of a great deal of tension between her and her father, even though she has never really articulated her suspicions to him.

Fast forward to the present day when a young married woman named Alice Lapaine is found strangled in London, not far from the tavern that Cat's father still operates. Cat's team is assigned to investigate the case, and initially the victim's husband looks like an excellent suspect. But Cat is stunned when the investigation reveals that "Alice Lapaine" is really none other than the long-lost Maryanne Doyle.

Cat knows that she should immediately come clean with her supervisors about her link to the victim, especially since the body was found so close to her father's establishment. But no one else on the team makes the connection and Cat struggles to maintain the secret while she attempts to unravel the twin mysteries of where Maryanne Doyle has been all these years and how she's wound up murdered now.

This is a very dark and moody story, part psychological suspense novel and part police procedural. Cat Kinsella is a complex and interesting protagonist, and Frear expertly weaves a complex plot that offers up one surprise after another. The settings are very well done. My only concern about the book was the huge coincidence that would have the long-gone girl, Maryanne Doyle, turn up dead and Cat Kinsella be assigned the case. ("Of all the gin joints in all the world...")

Still, that's a minor complaint, and I really enjoyed this book a lot. I see it's billed as "Cat Kinsella #1," and I very much hope that we will not have to wait long for #2. This is a fresh and unique character, and I can hardly wait to see where Frear takes her next.

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