“I was too angry to take my own life,” muses the protagonist of Sharon Bolton’s Little Black Lies. “Unless, of course, I could take Rachel’s first.” Readers expecting a conventionally likable heroine may be taken aback by Catrin Quinn, a woman too consumed by grief to feel much empathy for anyone around her. Catrin is a wildlife conservation expert in the Falkland Islands, a remote 2,000-person settlement in the south Atlantic. Until three years ago, she was a married mother of two. Then her best friend, Rachel, left her sons unattended in a car by the side of a cliff, allowing them to roll to their deaths.
The tragedy ended Catrin’s marriage, as well as her affair with sexy ex-soldier Callum Murphy. It also left Catrin bitter, hopeless and preoccupied with revenge. When a visiting tourist’s young son goes missing, joining in the search brings her anguish even closer to the surface. She believes the child simply wandered away from his parent and drowned—but this is the third such disappearance in three years, and islanders are starting to wonder if there could be a killer in their midst. Then Rachel’s son disappears, and Catrin’s neighbors start to wonder if that killer might be her.
Lies evokes the wild landscape of the Falklands—a place where whale and seal sightings are common, wrecked ships lurk just off the coast and abandoned mines from the ’80s-era war still pose a threat. It also deftly portrays the mental states of its three narrators: Catrin; Callum, the ex-lover who still hopes to win her back; and Rachel, the accidental killer who uses pills and alcohol to numb her guilt. Each is deeply damaged and difficult to love, but this fast-paced and expertly plotted thriller forces readers to question whether any of them are capable of murder.