In 1998, Catrina was on holiday in Mulderrin, Ireland with her family, when the beautiful 17 year old Maryanne Doyle vanished. Catrina had seen the effect Maryanne had on the boys and the men in the area, including her own father. But then after she went missing, her father told a lie to the police about whether or not he knew her. To eight-year-old Catrina, this could only mean one thing, and her perception of her brilliant, funny, generous father who she idolised changes permanently.
Years later, Cat is now a Detective Constable in the Metropolitan police, determined to escape the shadow of her petty-criminal father, and still convinced that he was responsible for the disappearance of Maryanne Doyle. Then one night, in the run-up to Christmas, the body of a woman is found near her dad’s pub in Spitalfields, and Cat fears the worst. Whilst she passionately wants justice for the dead women, she’s equally desperate to avoid her father being brought in, and having her family exposed. If this sounds straightforward, I assure you it isn’t. What follows is a killer crime debut – an already gripping premise that turns into an even more thrilling tale, packed with twists and turns, which you won’t be able to put down. Every time you think you’re on solid ground, another revelation is thrown into the mix, building up to a clever and devastating climax I wouldn’t have ever imagined.
One thing I sometimes find a bit difficult about police procedures is that often the ‘team’ scenes slow down the action. This was not an issue in Sweet Little Lies. The team of officers are well-drawn and enthralling in their own right – from DS Luigi Parnell, who Cat knowingly clings to as a surrogate father, to the fearsome DCI Steele, whose maternal instincts towards Cat are somewhat less appreciated. In fact, whenever we left the station, I found myself missing them. Cat too is a terrifically compelling character who I rooted for, gunning for her to do the right thing. She’s both manipulative and vulnerable, often told off for over-empathising with victims, and impossible not to sympathise with.
I’d definitely recommend this complex, convincing and deeply satisfying thriller about family bonds, and how far we would go to protect the ones we love, in spite of everything.
Huge thanks to the endlessly super Katherine Armstrong for pushing this into my greedy little hands.
Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear is published by Zaffre.