Click here to read reviewer Michael Leonard's take on Little Black Lies.
Boltonís latest stand-alone novel, Little Black Lies, cements her reputation as an exceptional storyteller with a firm sense of plot and rich character development. Since her earliest work (Sacrifice,
Awakening, Blood Harvest, written as S.J. Bolton), Bolton displays a mature and sophisticated view of the world and the nuances of human behavior, place an important factor in defining the actions of her characters.
Set in the Falkland Islands in 1994, the fully fleshed protagonists in Little Black Lies
are distinctive and memorable, the story narrated from the perspectives of three
characters. Catrin Quinn is the bereaved mother of two boys lost in an accident, obsessed with a plan to end her suffering on the third anniversary of her boysí deaths. Cullam Murray, a Scot
ex-soldier of the war against annexation by Argentina and Catrinís lover at the time of the tragedy, has not yet lost hope for their future.
Catrin's best friend since childhood, Rachel Grimwald's carelessness allowed the boys to die, the womenís close friendship shattered, Catrin imagining scenes of revenge against Rachel. The mother of three boys, Rachel appears to have eluded the judgment of fellow islanders, while Catrin has become an outwardly functioning recluse, a marine biologist working for Falkland Conservation but really only a shell of her former self.
She seethes with rage and elaborate plans to end her misery, her little dog Catrinís only companion.
The rugged coastline of the archipelago consists of many small islands inhabited by locals.
Occasional cruise ships deposit curious tourists to photograph themselves enjoying the local culture and marine population, picnic on secluded beaches, and patronize quaint shops on the storied location. There are tourists visiting from a cruise ship when the alarm sounds for a missing child who got separated from his family, the beginning of an unfolding drama with terrible consequences for all three protagonists, but especially for Catrin as time goes on without locating the boy. This is the third such disappearance in recent years, the other two boys from island families, their bodies never recovered. Search parties are organized, from the police to soldiers and civilians, both Catrin and Cullam leading teams as the light fails and night nears. Catrin is grateful to be engaged in the activities, on a countdown to her final day in a life too joyless and painful to be endured. Cullam watches her from afar, Catrinís ex-husband, Ben, not unaware of either of the former lovers, Rachel always far-removed from the orbit of a best friend
who cannot forgive a fatal mistake in judgment.
Each character is beautifully rendered in the three perspectives, Catrin, Cullam and Rachel. Bolton reveals the most intimate thoughts and fears of those weighted with the burden of grief that has separated them: ďAs we cast our net of love ever wider we make ourselves stronger and weaker at the same time.Ē In spite of her enforced withdrawal, Catrinís pervasive grief is tangible, her isolation complete, her resistance to life the only solution to life without Kit and Ned, who haunt her every waking hour. This character becomes so familiar, so vital, that it is difficult to leave her behind when Cullamís story begins. It is equally difficult to leave Cullam for Rachel, but it is through this critical protagonist, the woman who robbed Catrin of her joy, that Boltonís grasp of the human condition is most powerfully illustrated, a masterful three-part harmony.
Even the peripheral actors on this stage are memorable, an integral part of the drama: Ben, Catrinís ex-husband; Constable Skye McNair, a young police woman
who cares too much; the islanders, who cannot fathom the actions of a mother unhinged by loss. They are matched by the imagery of the island: the craggy, ocean-battered cliffs; a childís skeleton discovered on a wrecked ship off the coast; the necessary slaughter of hundreds of beached pilot whales, Catrin drenched in their blood; and angry mobs throwing projectiles outside the police station, demanding justice for the missing boys. In a steaming cauldron of overwrought emotions, a desperate search for yet another lost child and a shocking confession inspire the fragile hope of redemption. Bolton has proven herself a master of this tangled psychological terrain, where passions run deep and love, however tortured, endures.