Review by Adrina Palmer
In this gripping debut procedural, a young London policewoman must probe dark secrets buried deep in her own family’s past to solve a murder and a long-ago disappearance.
I wanted to love ‘Sweet Little Lies’ by first-time novelist Caz Frear but the love was just not there. Have you ever met a new person and all the elements were there for you guys to become the best of friends? You have all the same interests, obsession with coffee, and even kids the same age but for some reason, you do not click. That’s this book. All the elements are inside the cover but the story lacks a connection. Caz is even English so the whole book pulls a mean accent and yet, something is missing. Let’s talk plot first because that is the amazing part.
Cat Kinsella, short for Catrina, is the detective with full on issues requiring therapy like any good detective should. Her last case moved into her and settled in for a long stay but nothing compared to the new case fresh to London. This case – a dead woman sprawled on the street – reminds her of her childhood and brings her daddy issues to the front of her brain. The victim, Alice Lapaine, starts as a normal case, that is a nameless face in a crowd until new evidence surfaces. Alice is someone from Cat’s past, a girl named Maryanne Doyle, someone her father had contact with, the last person to have contact with the victim before she disappeared for years before showing up dead in the city.
Along with Steele and Parnell – her co-workers – Cat searches for clues hoping the husband, Thomas Lapaine, is the murderer to take the spotlight from inching closer and closer to home. The clues all lead back to a lady of the night and a rich family with fertility issues and right back to Cat’s father back in 1998. Now Cat needs to keep her own involvement in the case, her sisters, and her father’s from her boss before her lack of sharing gets her canned. With no witnesses of the murder and every lead ending in a dead end, Cat is running out of ways for this case to not ruin her life or her relationship with her father. As a bartender for years, Cat’s father came across many a pretty face most willing to spend the night with a father of three, but none spent time in his trunk except Maryanne Doyle before disappearing and Cat cannot cope with the possibilities her young memories confirm.
A few bizarre clues lead to some breaks in the case and explain how Maryanne became Alice and how Alice became dead, each break also begs the question, is Daddy a killer? Cat and her father have had a tenuous relationship since Maryanne entered their small-time lives and now it could rip the tattered shreds apart or send dad to jail. Will Cat be able to solve the case, turn the limelight away from her father, and keep her wits about her in the process?
The characters are close to real; they feel like strangers, and Cat’s world of people is limited, keeping the scope small to engage readers in the overall narrative. As I said before, even though all the right elements are there, personable characters and personal aspects, something is missing. The book took two weeks to read through. In my world, a good book is one you cannot put down, but this book I put down and never found that spark that made me need to read the next page. The great part is I never figured out the killer, but the clues never gave the opportunity to know the murderer. Most whodunit novels introduce the murderer on the shy rather quickly but this story hid too much and opened too slowly to grab my attention. The intent is that Cat’s personal involvement in the case would create a bond with the reader but failed and when that’s missing, everything else fails to engage. Worth a read but maybe pick up at the library, not the bookstore.
Available in bookstores August 14th