Little Black Lies
by Sharon Bolton
I had a long train journey coming up so I thought I’d buy something for the Kindle and I’d heard rave reviews of this book from bloggers I trust. The book turned out to be so good that I snatched every moment to read it until it was over. It’s really good. And it’s crime, which I hardly ever read. Maybe I should read more crime?
The story is set on the Falklands, which is a setting I hadn’t read about before. We appear to be told in the first few chapters what the crime is going to be, but it then gets complicated by another crime having been committed – a young boy has gone missing – and the question becomes whether these things are linked and whether the planned crime will go ahead.
The book opens with Catrin diving for samples for the environmental organisation that she works with. Like the rest of the book, it is a lyrical piece of writing that combines nature, science, memory, contemplation and emotion to wonderful effect. I have zero desire to go diving in any sea or ocean but while reading those pages I was transported to a self that was right there with Catrin enjoying the experience.
Not that Catrin is enjoying the experience. She hasn’t really felt anything positive since her sons’ accidental death four years earlier. Her grief is overwhelming her. She no longer has a relationship with her best friend or (now ex) husband, and wallows alone but for her dog and what she is convinced are the ghosts of her sons. There is an edge of madness and a deep depression threatening her, but she remains functional…for now.
“I’m winging it. I step outside into a sort of creepy twilight, as though the world has fallen into the shadow of something sinister. For a moment, I’m frightened. Then I remember the eclipse. Were I to look up right now, as people around me are doing, I’d see the moon eating away at the sun’s light. I am not a superstitious person, but this seems entirely appropriate.”
The search for the missing child inevitably involves the whole community, small as it is. The Falklands is a fascinating setting for this kind of book. Its presumed innocence, its reliance on the British military and tourism, its recent history of war (the book is set in 1994, so the Falklands War is still fresh for everyone) all colour the narrative. The police chief is reluctant to consider the possibility of abduction but as this is the third child to go missing in as many years, that’s what everyone fears.
I learned a lot about the Falklands from this book. It’s multiple islands with a total area roughly equal to Wales and a population of about 3000 – smaller than the small town I grew up in. So major crime is pretty unusual and unlikely, and if or when it occurs is going to have a devastating effect. It’s also a very wild and empty place, with lots of dangers and hiding places.
We have a friend who has been to the Falklands multiple times and his descriptions of it chimed very much with Bolton’s. It sounds like a grimly fascinating place; somehow both a barren wasteland and a sanctuary for all sorts of wildlife.
“We couldn’t have been more different. She saw world within world, linked by rainbows of endless possibilities. I saw penguin eggs. And yet we were closer than sisters…She was the other half of me. The sunshine on the rocks to my shady nook under a tree. The positive keys to my minor chords. She was everything I was not and all the things I longed to be, except those qualities were so much better in her and I knew it.”
The story is narrated by Catrin, her (ex) best friend Rachel and former soldier Callum. All three could believably be guilty, but so could several other characters we meet. For much of the book, it isn’t even clear whether a crime has been committed, though it seems inevitable that one will be before it’s over.
I loved this book. I loved that it was recommended by Simon of Savidge Reads and it has a minor character called Simon Savidge. I love that there is ambiguity and plot twists and still there were characters I truly cared about. I loved that it was thrilling and still gorgeously written. I think I need to read more Sharon Bolton!
Published 2015 by Minotaur Books.