Book review: Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear

Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear
Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear

Cat Kinsella is a young, up-and-coming detective in the Met but she has a dark and dangerous secret… a secret that could tear apart her career and her family.

Meet the intriguing and captivating star of an outstanding debut thriller from Caz Frear, the talented new voice in crime fiction who won this year’s Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition and a lucrative publishing deal with Bonnier Zaffre.

Frear, who has a background in headhunting, plays a blinder with Sweet Little Lies, an authentic, complex and compelling crime mystery set in contemporary London and late 1990s Ireland as her troubled detective confronts the devastating possibility that her own father is a murderer.

In the early summer of 1998, eight-year-old Cat Kinsella, her two siblings and her parents spent a holiday at her gran’s farm in the small village of Mulderrin near Galway in Ireland where her teenage sister Jacqui struck up a friendship with beautiful local girl Maryanne Doyle.

A ‘glittering creature’ with a belly-button ring and ‘hoops the size of Catherine Wheels,’ 17-year-old Maryanne turned the heads and caught the eyes of not just the local boys, but the men, the husbands and the dads as well.

Daddy’s girl Cat was disturbed to see her own father flirting with her and when Maryanne disappeared without trace on a trip to buy hairspray and he denied ever knowing her, Cat was the only one who knew the truth and her relationship with him changed forever.

Eighteen years later, working for the Met as a detective constable and still haunted by memories of her father’s lies, Cat is called out to the murder of 35-year-old Alice Lapaine whose body has been found near the Islington pub run by her father who is now a widower. Cat has been punishing him since that long ago holiday in Ireland and hasn’t seen him for several years.

When evidence links Alice to the still missing Maryanne, Cat senses something ‘dizzying and destructive’ about the case and fears about her father resurface. Could he really be a killer, and should she tell her bosses about her father’s links to the case?

Determined to confront the past and find out what happened to Maryanne all those years ago, Cat begins to dig deeper. But the problem with looking into the past is that sometimes you might not like what you find…

Kinsella is an excitingly original leading lady… a sparky, abrasive young woman always on the defensive and constantly hiding her vulnerability, insecurity and natural sensitivity beneath a brash, brittle and flippantly cynical veneer.

Frear arms her with some darkly humorous one-liners as she negotiates her way through a tough and very personal case, her relationship with an eclectic team of fellow police officers and a troubled past and present that tests her to the limits of her mental endurance.

Acutely observant, self-deprecating but maybe too ‘over-empathetic’ when it comes to handling crimes, Kinsella is perceptive not just about other people but herself too, recognising that her ability to feel other people’s pain could compromise her need to remain objective in her work.

Written with the assurance of a seasoned author, Sweet Little Lies is a superb page-turner, packed with impressive police procedural, a fascinating, festering, twisting mystery that weaves tantalisingly between past and present, and a plot that thrills and confounds to the final showdown.

A remarkable debut from an exciting new author…

(Zaffre, paperback, £7.99)