Little Black Lies is a standalone title by Sharon Bolton that I received free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
The novel is, at first glance, about Catrin, Callum, and Rachel, three lonely, damaged people with tragic pasts, haunting demons, and an inability to move on. But it’s actually about so much more than that. It’s about three missing children in a closeknit, small island community and what happens to that community when the realization that the missing children are more than just tragic accidents hits them.
Catrin lost her children in an accident two years ago. She’s pulled back and avoids people as much as she possibly can, taking refuge in the sea and her home. But when the third child goes missing and the entire island turns out to help search for him, she can’t avoid taking part. But things quickly take a sinister turn, as we begin to see just how unstable Catrin is, and soon we’re left wondering if she is really just a grieving mother or if she’s guilty of something more than hating the person responsible for her own pain.
Callum is a former soldier struggling with PTSD. Flashbacks overwhelm him at the most inconvenient times, and he’s an outsider to the small town. But despite that, he stands by Catrin because he loves her and he knows that she’s no monster. But as things begin to unravel and the whole island starts pointing fingers and demanding answers, his determination to prove her innocence might end up proving his own guilt.
Rachel is responsible for a single moment of recklessness that changed the lives of so many people she cared about. Nothing was ever the same after that one moment that she would do anything to take back. Her guilt and her grief are so overwhelming that she’s unable to love her youngest child the way she should. She knows she’s wrong, knows she needs help, yet she can’t even find it in herself to seek out that help. But when her own son joins the ranks of the missing, everything changes.
When I started this book, I almost didn’t finish it. The initial pages bored me a bit – it started with Catrin alone, the scene rather unrelated to the story I gathered from the blurb. There was a dumping of family history and backstory that didn’t make sense initially and I seriously considered putting the book down. But I decided to give it a few more pages, on the off chance that it might get better – and it did.
Little Black Lies is written in the first person, with a third of the book written in each of the main character’s voices – Catrin’s, Callum’s, and Rachel’s. We relive the same few days from each perspective, getting a different angle on the same events. We see each person’s grief, demons, fears and hurts. We come to learn, slowly, what each of them is dealing with. We begin to see why each of them could easily be guilty of just about anything.
I love that the story was in the first person, and from each character’s point of view – it created a unique sense of intimacy to the story that, for me, made it even better. The setting contributed to this feeling of intimacy as well, being an island in the Falklands. The loneliness, the isolation, and the small town in which this all takes place pull you in and make you feel like you’ve gone to visit the town of Stanley and are sitting in a pub or coffee shop with some of the locals, hearing the story from them.
I was kept guessing through the entire book. Every time I thought I had things figured out, there’d be a new twist that would have me throwing out everything I thought I knew and starting over. I loved that.
And the ending? Let’s talk about the ending. Completely, totally unexpected. Seriously. With most books, I figure out the “who did it?” before it becomes clear – I may only figure it out a few pages, paragraphs or even words before it becomes clear, but I get it. This book, I did not. When I found out who did it, I was absolutely floored. I truly did not see it coming. And yet, after the initial shock wore off, it was like, “Well, of course.”
If you love a good mystery, if you particularly like mysteries that take place in small or isolated areas with few characters, Little Black Lies is a book that you will love. Stick it out through the initial few pages (if you find them boring like I did; maybe you won’t), and read the whole book. I promise it’s worth it.
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