As soon as I started to read Sacrifice by S.J. Bolton back in 2011, I knew immediately that I had found an author who would become a favourite and this was confirmed a few months later when I read another of her books, Awakening. Now writing under the name Sharon Bolton, her last four novels have been part of a series following the investigations of detective Lacey Flint – and while I have enjoyed the series, I was pleased to hear that her newest book, Little Black Lies, was going to be another standalone.
Little Black Lies is set on the Falkland Islands, the British territory in the South Atlantic which is still the subject of dispute between Britain and Argentina. The events of the novel take place over one week in November 1994. The Falklands War which took place twelve years earlier is still fresh in people’s minds, but as the story opens the islanders have something new to worry about: the fate of a little boy who has disappeared on the islands – the third missing child in three years.
The novel is divided into three sections narrated by three different characters, each of whom may or may not be involved in the disappearances of the boys. The first of these narrators, Catrin Quinn, is someone who understands exactly what it is like to lose a child. Still trying to come to terms with the recent deaths of her two young sons in a car accident, Catrin is seeking solace in her conservation work and in plotting revenge on her former best friend, Rachel Grimwood, the woman she blames for the tragedy.
Next we hear from Catrin’s ex-lover, Callum Murray, a British soldier who took part in the Falklands War of 1982. Callum is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and is experiencing worrying lapses in his memory. Finally, Rachel has a chance to tell her side of the story – and unsurprisingly, her version of events is very different from Catrin’s.
Three different narrators and, as I’ve come to expect from Sharon Bolton, all three are flawed and all three are unreliable. The author delves deeply into the lives of each character, but although we get to know them very well over the course of the novel we can never be quite sure whether they’re being completely honest with the reader or with themselves. As I read, I suspected first Catrin, then Callum, then Rachel – and then I changed my mind – and then I changed it again. There are plot twists, there are surprises and there are revelations (one of them coming at the end of the very last page) and every time I thought I knew where the story was going, I was proved wrong.
I have praised the plot and the characters, but the setting also deserves a mention. The Falkland Islands are hardly a popular choice of setting for crime novels (with a population of fewer than 3,000 people, most of whom live in the capital, Stanley, violent crime is almost unheard of on the islands) but the fact that I’d never read a book set there before is one of the reasons I loved Little Black Lies so much. The landscape is beautifully described and the sense of isolation creates a wonderful, eerie atmosphere. This book is dark, powerful and emotional…and probably my favourite by Sharon Bolton so far.
I received a copy of Little Black Lies for review via NetGalley.