Still mourning the loss of her two sons, Catrin plans to take her final revenge on the woman responsible for their deaths – her best friend Rachel. As the third anniversary of the accident approaches, Catrin finalises her plans but everything is thrown into disarray when a three year old boy goes missing. Three young boys have disappeared within the last two years on the Falklands but no one is willing to face up to the fact that something sinister may be happening.
As Catrin is caught up in the search with her ex-lover, Callum, the finger of suspicion begins to fall on her as all of the missing boys have a marked resemblance to her dead sons. When Rachel’s youngest son is the next to disappear, the evidence against Catrin begins to mount when her plot to harm Rachel is exposed, however it is Callum who doubts his innocence as he believes he may have harmed the boy during one of his PTSD blackouts. As the story unfolds, Catrin, Callum and Rachel are forced into a final confrontation which will either save or condemn them.
While Little Black Lies is a welcome respite from the Lacey Flint series, it wasn’t one of my favourite Bolton books. Set on the Falkland Islands about twelve years after the war, Little Black Lies seems like it is going to be a crime story about missing boys but it is actually more to do with the grieving process and how the three main characters mistakenly perceive each other. Divided into three narratives, we witness the events unfold from three different angles which allows us to understand why certain assumptions, good or otherwise, are being made. Each of the main characters has their own particular cross to bear, some more than one, which is slowly revealed as the plot unfolds.
As with her previous novels, Bolton leads us down many wrong paths to keep us guessing but for once the plot didn’t really ring true to me as I found the initial accusations against Catrin to be too much of a stretch. The portrayal of the police department also disappointed me as they were made to look stupid by their unwillingness to accept the possibility one of their own is a child killer, yet, much later, they seem overly keen to accept Catrin’s guilt despite the fact she is a native islander too. Normally, I think Bolton portrays the police in a realistic way but I just found them too absurd here. Once Catrin is arrested for allegedly abducting Rachel’s son, everyone seems to forget the other boys and no clear motive for their abduction is ever established. Her motive for kidnapping Rachel’s son is clear since she was so eager to exact revenge on Rachel but why the other boys? When we do revisit the abduction thread, there is an almighty twist but it just left me totally unmoved because it seems pointless and is not explained properly.
While I didn’t care for the criminal elements of the plot very much, I did find the psychological factors far more interesting and it was intriguing to see how the characters were fooling themselves as well as each other. The final confrontation between Rachel and Catrin wasn’t as explosive as I thought it would be but it was satisfying enough given the safety of a child was involved. There are a lot of factors to be overcome before any of the characters can move on with their lives but most readers will be satisfied by their respective outcomes.
The setting is always an important part of Bolton’s novels and Little Black Lies is no exception, with the wildness of the landscape and the remoteness reminding me a lot of Sacrifice which was set on the Shetlands. And it’s not everyday you read a novel set in the Falklands!