Book review: Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear

Friday, October 20, 2017 Permalink

I adored this novel. The plot is great, but it’s our lead character, Cat and her voice… which in essence reflects Caz Frear’s writing that I really loved. I’ve mentioned this before, but I only notice prose or an author’s writing if it’s really good or bad a bit ordinary / lazy. Otherwise I get wrapped up in the plot and it fades seamlessly into the background.

But in this case I was really drawn to Cat and the way her mind worked. To her thinking and her internal dialogue. In fact, perhaps I’m a little biased in that respect because Frear writes exactly how I would like to write. If I wrote.

Book review: Sweet Little Lies by Caz FrearSweet Little Lies
by Caz Frear
Published by Bonnier Zaffre
on October 25th 2017
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural, Psychological Thriller
ISBN: 9781785763823
Pages: 480

In 1998, Maryanne Doyle disappeared and Dad knew something about it?Maryanne Doyle was never seen again.

In 1998, Dad lied about knowing Maryanne Doyle.

Alice Lapaine has been found strangled near Dad's pub. Dad was in the local area for both Maryanne Doyle's disappearance and Alice Lapaine's murder.

On reading the back cover blurb I was a tad reticent. I imagined some lengthy angst-written saga from 1998 in which we meet Cat, her horrid father and learn in detail about Maryanne’s disappearance and the ensuing investigation.

However, the book kicks off with a prologue of sorts. It’s short and sweet and includes an introduction to 8yr old Catrina, her brother, sister and parents – holidaying in Ireland with their grandmother and briefly introduces Maryanne. Who disappears.

We then flick forward 18yrs to the present where DC Cat Kinsella is being forced to see a counsellor having ‘flipped-out’ (as she puts it) after finding a 3yr old girl brushing the hair of her bloodied mother who’d been dead for two days.

She’s on thin ice with her tough, but supportive boss when a new case comes in. She and her partner (and father figure) DS Luigi Parnell head to the crime scene which is closer than she’d like to her father’s pub and her family’s old stomping ground. And when the victim’s story is entwined with the events of 18yrs earlier Cat knows she should tell her boss she can’t work this case.

I loved the way Frear shares Cat’s internal conflict. She and her father were once exceptionally close in a love / hate kinda way. When we’re first introduced to them it’s obvious she’s her dad’s favourite. Her mother seems tetchy but even at 8yrs old Cat understands her father gets up to stuff he shouldn’t and it’s akin to a game her parents play… slipping into default roles they’ve long ago settled-on.

The disappearance of Maryanne changes everything. Eight year old Cat cannot rationalise what she sees, hears and knows, and it impacts on her relationship with her father and her family.

All these things designed to goad Dad into hurting me so that everyone could see just how dangerous he could be. p 90

Cat talks about acting out and I wonder how she didn’t ever tell anyone what she’d seen, or at least mention it to her father until now, although I guess Frear describes why…

So you see, some fears can never be shared. Some fears so cataclysmic that to share them would be tantamount to suicide.

Life as I know it, obliterated. p 93

And now, Cat’s both more and less certain of her father’s involvement in Maryanne’s disappearance. And it’s a dilemma that is impacting on her new investigation.

But fear muzzled me, far more than his clasp on my jaw ever could. The fear of what he might unload if I kept pushing and the fear of losing him forever if I’m wrong.

Because what if he’s not who I think he is? …

What if I’ve spent the last eighteen years tormenting him – tormenting myself – for what amounts to nothing more than a few grubby white lies. p 135

I’ve mentioned how much I loved Frear’s effortless and absorbing writing. From throwaway lines:

The west coast lilt, the cheekbones and now a dead mammy. If I could marry him here and now, I would. p 110

to the way she describes night shift:

Fevered and ghoulish, like Satan’s little imps, we sit and wait in darkened rooms, aching for death to bring us to life. p 16

I read this in a night, only breaking to cook and eat. It meant a late Sunday night which wasn’t a great start to my working week but I had no regrets and didn’t want to put it aside.

I noted the debut author mentioned she was working on book number two and after some toing and froing on Twitter Frear confirmed it again features the team at MIT4 and Cat. (I didn’t tell her though I’ll be happy to read whatever she writes next; assuming she retains the tone and tenor of her prose, making it engaging, accessible and damned addictive.)

Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear will be published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and available from 25 October 2017.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.



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