Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Sweet Little Lies – Caz Frear

Crime Fiction
5*s

Cat Kinsella is a Detective Constable in the Met, in keeping with the fictional detectives we know and love she does a bit of a shady back-story and is being closely mentored by the SIO DCI Kate Steele after falling to pieces following a recent murder but as we are to find out there is something far darker in her background.

This is a police procedural with a dash of psychological thriller elements and has an overwhelming original feel to it that I was drawn in instantly into Cat’s tale. With the majority of the book set in the present day at the Met following the discovery of a woman’s body in park in Islington, London. What Cat doesn’t tell her fellow officers is that she knows the victim, Maryanne Doyle, or rather knew her, from a holiday to Mulderrin, on the west coast of Ireland back in 1998. Cat was just eight whilst Maryanne was a glamorous teenager who had no time for little kids, unless they had a Tinkerbell necklace that matched her belly button piercing. You’ll have to read the book to find out what that little mystery is about because as the readers find out first-hand through the younger Cat’s eyes as we travel back in time, most convincingly, to an age when Cat was keen on the Spice Girls, adores her father although the secrets they share sometimes make her feel uncomfortable. Why? Well she saw him flirting with Maryanne Doyle before she disappeared sparking a police search, and then he told the police he didn’t know her.

For all the frivolity of the Spice Girls and the like from the 1990s and the appealing character of Cat, at both ages, this book has a complex plot and the investigation throws up all sorts of problems not least when Maryanne’s husband realises that what he thought he knew about her life was false with a capital F. The officer’s biggest problem is to try to sift the truth from the lies. That brings me to the title, none of the lies are ‘sweet’ or even ‘little’ so perhaps Caz Frear should be held accountable for a misleading title? I forgive her though because this is definitely one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read this year. As Cat struggles with her feelings towards her father, her fears that he knows more than he’s letting on this is a portrait of a dysfunctional family that doesn’t go overboard. Instead we are treated  a family who to the untrained eye rubs along as well as most, even if Cat is keen to avoid them over the festive turkey!

The author has balanced the need for memorable characters in the police procedural without letting their lives overshadow the crime itself. Although I was rooting for Caz, I liked this young woman who was living what I imagine is a fairly typical contemporary life, in a room in a house in London, no fancy riverside apartments for our detective! She has split loyalty of the most fundamental kind and so it is easy to wonder not only what she is going to do, but what I would do in the same position.

With brilliant characterisation alongside inspired plotting this is a book that you will not want to put down until you turn that last page. I’m not at all surprised that it won the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller Competition 2016, it is very hard to believe that a book that ticks all the boxes so decisively is a debut novel.

I’d like to say thank you to the publishers Bonnier Zaffre who sent me a copy of Sweet Little Lies  months ago, before it was first published in June! I’m sorry it took me so long to get around to reading it but belated thanks for allowing me to read such a fresh and inviting book. I can’t wait to see what Caz Frear comes up with next.

Crime fiction lovers, if you haven’t read this book yet it appears to be at an absolute bargain price for the kindle with the paperback version having been published just this week.

First Published UK: 29 June 2017
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
No. of Pages:  470
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2016, Book Review, Books I have read

The Twins – Saskia Sarginson #20booksofsummer

Book 14

Contemporary Fiction 3*s
Contemporary Fiction
3*s

This is a tale spanning from the early 1970s to the late 1980s told through the eyes of identical twins Isolte and Viola. Their mother Rose is a free spirit their father is a mystery. Rose has bought her girls up in line with her free and wild lifestyle, but on their move from a commune in Wales to the Suffolk countryside she decides to stop home schooling the twins and send them to the local school. Their home-made clothes and unconventional education don’t help the twins to fit in with their classmates, something not helped by them being kept down a year and therefore attending the local primary school instead of the secondary along with their peers. With no friends the girls roam wild in the local woods and meet up with another set of identical twins, Michael and John.

The author has structured the book so that the narrative not only switches between Isolte and Viola but also in time periods too at times it takes a while to work out which twin is narrating, however I did enjoy the patchwork style of building up what happened in the girl’s past against their lives in the present. This naturally lends a feeling of tension to the storyline as pieces of information are revealed and explains why the twins are haunted by events in 1972 before they left Suffolk to start another new life in London with their aunt.

This is a haunting tale and there is no doubting the writing ability of Saskia Sarginson which led to this book being chosen as one of Richard and Judy’s  Book Club in the Autumn list of 2013, but if I’m honest although I wanted to know more, the gaps in the timeline caused far too many questions for my liking which combined by the slow pace meant that I was not as enthralled by this book as her later novel The Other Me.

I am a big fan of dual timeline stories but in this instance the story set in the 1970s was of far more interest than that of the 1980s where one works as a fashion editor for a magazine whist the other is hospitalised through anorexia. Part of the problem with the present tale was there simply wasn’t much action as both girls in different ways, ruminated on the past which led to the unravelling of their childhood. What was interesting in this section was to see how the two reacted to these same events in different ways and how the long buried secrets still effected them both fifteen years later.

What Saskia Sarginson managed exceptionally well was the time period. The occasional, mention of brands and attitudes of the two time periods, caused sparks of nostalgia which worked particularly well with the author using these references sparingly to evoke the time without it becoming a book about ‘Do you remember when x happened?’ or ‘Do you remember when we used to do y and eat z?’ The scenes set in the Sussex countryside in a cottage with an outside privy was also exceptionally well done; I had no problems at all visualising the two girls with in a dank cottage eating foraged produce whilst their mother rustled up another misshapen dress for them to wear.

This is book had an original feel to it and will definitely appeal to those who are interested in twin stories with not one but two sets to examine in this wide-ranging story.

First Published UK : March 2013
Publisher: Piatkus
No of Pages: 368
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US