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Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton

I've previously read and reviewed six of Sharon Bolton's novels when she was writing and publishing under the pen name S. J. Bolton.  You can click this link to see those reviews.  Among those novels were three stand alone novels and three novels that are part of the Lacey Flint series (there's a fourth Flint novel and another stand alone novel that I haven't read yet as well as another stand alone novel that will be published soon).  Little Black Lies is a return to form for Bolton in that it's a stand alone book after four Flint novels.  Bolton also harnesses the use of a unique setting as character Little Black Lies much the same way she did for her first three novels.  Little Black Lies is a tautly written, highly suspenseful story that will keep you guessing through its final pages.

Little Black Lies is set in the Falkland Islands, an archipelago located three hundred miles off the coast of Argentina.  While the islands are under British sovereignty, Argentina also lays claim to them, and as a result the issue of to whom the islands 'belong' is controversial.  At one point in the 1980's Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands and the U.K. sent troops to defend them resulting in the Falklands War.  You may ask why this history lesson is important, but the story is set in November 1994, and so the war is a fairly recent memory for many of the characters in the story.

Catrin Quinn has come to the decision to end it all and in so doing take her former best friend, Rachel, the woman she blames for her sons' deaths, with her in an act of ultimate vengeance.  Catrin has meticulously planned this out to coincide with the third anniversary of her sons' deaths.  However, before she can execute her plan a little boy disappears from the islands.  The disappearance, the third in as many years, sets the locals on edge.

Complicating the investigation is the presence of a cruise ship of outsiders that was docked at the islands when the boy disappeared.  Many locals, including the police chief and Catrin, are in denial that anything untoward or sinister is amiss.  How can a predator of little boys live so long among them undetected?  Such monsters are common place in the outside world, not in an isolated, insular community of a couple thousand people such as that residing on the Falkland Islands.  But Callum Murray, Catrin's former lover and a Scottish transplant who originally came to the islands as a British soldier to defend them in the war, insists the archipelago harbors a monster.  When the body of one of the previously disappeared boys is found and the gruesome discovery is followed closely by the rescue of the most recently missing child found alive, everyone is relieved.  However, the culprit's identity remains shrouded in mystery, and the ensuing backlash explodes when a fourth boy disappears.  The ensuing unrest threatens to swallow up Catrin and Callum both regardless of their innocence in the disappearances.

All three adults are traumatized individuals harboring darkness and trauma borne from deep grief.  Catrin has never recovered from her boys' accidental deaths and is a shell of the woman she used to be.  Callum carries the psychological scars of service in the Falklands War and though his PTSD symptoms subsided following his return in peace time to the islands, the deaths of Catrin's boys as well as the disappearances have triggered a resurgence of the flashback blackouts.  Rachel's neglect and betrayal of her best friend's trust directly lead to the Quinn boys' deaths as well as the termination of her friendship with Catrin.  Subsequently Rachel barely functions and has never properly bonded with her youngest son who was born following the boys' deaths.

The story is divided into three sections. Each section covers the same time frame from the perspectives of Catrin, Callum, and Rachel respectively.  Each section illuminates the transpiring events and offers insights into the sequence of events that led to the deaths of the Quinn boys.  This is a heart pounding, gripping, suspenseful, disturbing novel, and the twists come quickly in the last chapters right up until the last page with a classic, low key horror twist.  If you're a fan of a great thriller or a fan of Bolton, you won't want to miss this book.

One rant I had:

Why is Ben, Catrin's ex-husband, still salty regarding Callum's extramarital affair with Catrin?  It's not like he didn't up and leave her, while she was still grieving, to re-marry and start a second family less than three years after his boys died.  Are we expected to believe there was no overlap between Ben's relationships?


--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

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