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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Review of "Little Black Lies" by Sharon Bolton

   3.5 Stars

This psychological thriller set in the Falkland Islands is divided into three sections, each with a different narrator.  Catrin Quinn is a marine biologist who is grieving the accidental deaths of her two young sons three years earlier.  Callum Murray, Catrin’s friend, is a former Scottish marine who fought in the Falkland War twelve years earlier; he has chosen to make the islands his home.  Rachel Grimwood was Catrin’s best friend; it is she who left Catrin’s sons in a car which rolled off a cliff.  A young boy goes missing, the third in as many years, and everyone becomes involved in the search which brings together these three inhabitants.

The reader comes to know the three narrators very well.  Each is a damaged soul:  Catrin is filled with rage for her former friend, and she has vowed revenge for Rachel’s role in the death of her family; Callum experiences PTSD flashbacks which leave him with gaps in his memory; and Rachel suffers from guilt and post-partum depression.  Each also has secrets.  As each narrates, he/she arouses the reader’s sympathy. 

The setting of the Falkland Islands is part of the appeal of the novel.  The descriptions of the stark beauty are wonderful.  Rachel, for example, says, “I can see most of the inlet ahead of me and so winding and fractured is the coastline around it that sometimes it is impossible to tell where land ends and sea begins.  There are days when the sea seems to hold still and the land to be in constant, undulating motion.  Not today though.  The clear air is exaggerating the colours below me.  The blue ocean, white beach, green, gray and yellow hillside.  There are stagnant pools too, water that can’t quite find its way back to the ocean, and these glow some of the most remarkable colours that nature can produce.  Emerald greens, deep azure blues, even shades of violet.  On a dull day, my homeland looks barren and desolate, but when the sky is shining, these islands seem to have been spun from rainbows.”  The tourism board of the Falklands should be thanking the author. 

There are a number of plot twists which keep the reader guessing.  The one section I found implausible is the scene at the police station when various people make conflicting statements.  At times this scene reads more like a farcical comedy skit.  The last twist takes place on the final page and is a real stunner.  Surprisingly, it is very plausible.

The frequent references to The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Coleridge are very effective, especially in conveying Rachel’s guilt.  Of course, she is not the only one who has a figurative albatross around her neck. 

This is the first Sharon Bolton book I’ve read; it is flawed but not so badly that it will stop me from checking out more of her novels.  It is not a demanding read but offers sufficient suspense and character development to make for an interesting interlude from more serious books.