To say Cat Kinsella has father issues is an understatement, as this outstanding debut explores. British author Caz Frear’s confident first novel succinctly melds the police procedural with the psychological thriller while also delivering a solid look at a fractured family in “Sweet Little Lies.”
Until she was 8, Cat was close to her father, Michael McBride, a shady businessman with ties to London’s underworld, and a serial adulterer. But during a family vacation in Ireland, Cat witnessed her father arguing with teenager Maryanne Doyle a few days before the girl disappeared.
And then Cat heard her father tell the police that he didn’t know Maryanne, even though the teenager was an acquaintance of his oldest daughter, Jacqui.
Now 26, Cat is a detective constable in London, concentrating on her career over her personal life and having as little to do with her family as possible. To further distance herself from her father, she uses her mother’s last name rather than her given name of McBride.
Cat’s family drama intrudes on her professional life when she and her partner, Det. Sgt. Luigi Parnell, investigate the murder of Alice Lapaine, whose body was found near the London pub that her father owns. The case takes an odd turn when Alice is linked to Maryanne.
Once again, Cat wonders how involved her father might be, even when the case reveals other suspects — “Those sweet little lies you tell yourself to make life more bearable,” says one character.
Frear imbues “Sweet Little Lies” with a twisty plot that excels in its in-depth look at Cat’s complicated psyche and how her relationship with her father led to her becoming a cop.
Prickly but compassionate, Cat is a bundle of contradictions. She’s immensely interesting as she delves into police work. Her relationship with her other squad members, especially with Parnell, who is her surrogate father, is paramount in her life. That she is willing to risk everything — including her career — by not revealing her father’s connection adds to her complex personality.
Frear should have much fodder to explore with Cat Kinsella, whose return would be most welcomed. □