I chose to read this novel because it had such good reviews and was the winner of the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition. It was actually even better than I thought it would be.
Detective Cat Kinsella is part of the murder investigation team that discover the body of a woman called Alice Lapaine. Her body is discovered in very close proximity to the pub where Cat grew up and where her father still lives and works. This brings back old memories and suspicions for Cat as she is reminded of a girl called Maryanne Doyle, who disappeared when Cat was a young girl. Maryanne was never found but Cat does know that her father lied to the police about knowing her. Thus begins a tense investigation which has a personal significance to Cat.
The story had me hooked from the beginning. I liked that there was an added pressure to the investigation – it gave the plot an extra level of intensity as not only was I desperate to find out what had happened but also to find out if Cat’s father was involved. I don’t want to say too much in case of spoilers but it begins to look more and more likely that Cat’s father may be implicated in the murder. This creates yet another layer to the story as Cat worries about her responsibility as a police officer to tell the other detectives what she knows. This level of complexity is impressive and I’m always fascinated by how authors can weave together the threads of a story so intricately without giving anything away too soon. Frear certainly managed to do this expertly.
I liked Cat’s character and think she was well-written. She was just the right amount of ‘flawed’ so she was likeable but also believable. This seems an odd thing to say but I find that it is definitely a stereotype of the crime thriller genre to have a detective who has a Shakespearean ‘fatal flaw’, often an inability to be emotionally involved with friends, family or work colleagues due to a previous trauma. This is not particularly a bad thing; when you imagine a murder detective, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that a certain level of detachment would actually be a good quality to have. However I do think that this flaw can be a little overdrawn in some novels to the point where it gets in the way of the story. I realise that in some cases, this is purposefully done, however character is nearly always the most important thing in a novel for me so I don’t like it when plot is put before authenticity.
Sweet Little Lies was also very well-paced. I am sometimes critical of the way a crime novel can feel very slow in the set-up but then have a sudden rush when the murderer is revealed at the end of the book. I’m pleased to say this was not the case with this novel at all. It had a steady drip-feed of clues and snippets of information that meant the plot never lost momentum, which was very impactful.
This was a smart novel with a truly interesting story that kept me guessing right up until the end. It had a good cast of characters and the layered story sets it apart from other novels of its kind. If you’re looking for a good murder mystery, this would be a perfect choice.