This book tells the tale of how the friendship between Carin and Rachel turned ugly the day Rachel was responsible for the death of Carin’s young sons. Both women had given birth to two boys of similar ages and the two women continued their friendship which had started when they were both eleven.
The book starts in the run up to the third anniversary of the boy’s deaths. In the shocking opening we learn that Carin, a marine conservation officer, has been devastated by her grief and harbours ideas of revenge against Rachel. She is questioning if she is capable of killing, convinced that in the right circumstances, everybody is. The novel is set over five days and is quite slow to get going but when it does, well it was a case of hang onto your seat and try to keep up with the revelations that spill from the pages.
The story is set in the Falklands, in 1994, twelve years after the war and one of our three narrators is Callum, a former soldier who saw appalling scenes during the conflict. The author doesn’t spare us this horror as Callum suffers with PSD and relives some of those wartime events during his narration. Sharon Bolton does an amazing job of bringing to life this large land mass populated by a small number of people, rarely have I been able to visualise a place I have never visited and never so unobtrusively as the bleak landscape with a wide variety of wildlife is cleverly woven into the plot. The Falklands in Little Black Lies are bleak with more than a whiff of claustrophobia about it with the whole population knowing everyone’s business. The mixture of secret desires being held in this small-town setting is incredibly powerful, because however much people think they know, they can’t know everything, they can’t see another’s thoughts.
Each of the three narrators, Carin, Callum and Rachel narrate their portion in one hit, each covering the same timescale. While I felt sympathy for Carin she is so damaged she comes across as quite a remote character and you can’t help but wonder what she is capable of, especially when there is a disaster and she is forced to make a difficult choice. Callum is far nicer, in some ways too nice and it is through his eyes that we see a different side to Carin. Rachel has been forever marked as the woman who killed two children, she’s removed herself from life through the use of sleeping pills.
As if our characters didn’t all have enough going on in their lives, a young boy goes missing and all the islanders are out searching for him. With visitors from a visiting cruise ship to swell the numbers the local police organise search parties and attempt to quell the inevitable comparison to two other boys that have gone missing over the last couple of years.
This is a tense novel that accurately portrays the nature of grief, small-town life, difficult choices and rejection. In the hands of such a gifted writer the dark emotions are powerful and intense. The plot has been well-thought out although I feel that the structure was responsible for the slow start to the novel, it was cleverly used to add layers to both the plot and the characters, as we cover the same time period from different perspectives. This is quite unlike the Lacey Flint series, being far darker, and firmly marks Sharon Bolton out as an author who is a master story-teller.
I’d like to say thank you to the publishers, Random House UK who allowed me to read a copy ahead of the publication date of 2 July 2015.