Harper, 2017, 344 pages
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.
Your father is a liar. But is he a killer?
Even liars tell the truth... sometimes.
Twenty-six-year-old Cat Kinsella overcame a troubled childhood to become a detective constable with the Metropolitan Police Force, but she’s never been able to banish these ghosts. When she’s called to the scene of a murder in Islington, not far from the pub her estranged father still runs, she discovers that Alice Lapaine, a young housewife who didn’t get out much, has been found strangled.
Cat and her team immediately suspect Alice’s husband, until she receives a mysterious phone call that links the victim to Maryanne Doyle, a teenage girl who went missing in Ireland 18 years earlier. The call raises uneasy memories for Cat - her family met Maryanne while on holiday, right before she vanished. Though she was only a child, Cat knew that her charming but dissolute father wasn’t telling the truth when he denied knowing anything about Maryanne or her disappearance. Did her father do something to the teenage girl all those years ago? Could he have harmed Alice now? And how can you trust a liar even if he might be telling the truth?
Determined to close the two cases, Cat rushes headlong into the investigation, crossing ethical lines and trampling professional codes. But in looking into the past, she might not like what she finds....
I was drawn to this debut novel because the description sounded a bit like the work of Alex Marwood, another British lady crime writer I really like, but unfortunately, Sweet Little Lies is basically a police procedural whose main character is given lots of baggage to make her interesting and launch her career as the star of a series, but I see it doing what most police detective series do and retreading family drama and recurring characters quickly.
Cat Kinsella is an Irish lass who's now a Detective Constable in London. She's seeing a shrink because she lost it a while ago over a nasty case involving a kid being stuck with the body of his dead mother for hours, and she's desperately trying to impress her supervisor, her lady chief mentor, and down deep, her father. Cat has loads of daddy issues, which are all dragged out and examined over the course of this novel.
Her current case is the murder of a young housewife. Nothing particularly remarkable, until it turns out to be connected to the disappearance of a teenage girl Cat knew when she was a child... a teenage girl she knew her father knew, and lied about knowing.
So while ostensibly Cat is working the murder of Alice Lapaine, the mystery dangled in front of the reader's nose for most of the book, the one we know Cat really wants to solve and which will have to be revealed before the end, is whether her father murdered Maryanne Doyle almost 20 years ago. Since this was really the more interesting question, the one that's essentially presented as the real mystery early on, I found myself not as interested in the Lapaine case, even as the author added twist after twist involving sinister escorts, mobsters, and trafficking, all tied to Cat's shady father, which of course she is keeping secret from her fellow cops.
There are a bunch of twists, a lot of detective work, some family drama, both cases are eventually resolved, then there are some more twists thrown at the end for good measure. Cat is shakily set back on her feet for the next book with its returning cast.
Cat was okay as a character, but leaned a little hard into "Chick with a messed up family who's sorting out whether she wants a career or a personal life and whether she's got it together enough to manage either," and it felt a little like police procedural chick lit, if that's even a genre.
I didn't not like this book, but I wasn't smitten with it or the protagonist, and don't feel particularly compelled to read the next one.
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