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Book review: London cop with family issues debuts in 'Sweet Little Lies'

Sun Sentinel Correspondent

‘Sweet Little Lies’ By Caz Frear. Harper, 352 pages, $26.99

To say that Cat Kinsella has father issues is an understatement, as British author Caz Frear explores in this outstanding debut about a fractured family. “Sweet Little Lies” is a confident first novel that succinctly melds the police procedural with the psychological thriller.

Until she was 8 years old, 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 she disappeared. And then Cat heard her father tell the police he didn’t know Maryanne, even though the teenager was an acquaintance of his oldest daughter, Jacqui.

Now 26 years old, 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 is, 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 and immensely interesting as she delves into police work. Her relationship with her other squad members -- especially with Parnell, who is like a 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 will be most welcomed.

Meet the author

Caz Frear will discuss “Sweet Little Lies” at 7 p.m. Sept. 12 at Murder on the Beach, 273 Pineapple Grove Way, Delray Beach, 561-279-7790, murderonthebeach.com. Frear’s appearance is part of the Women’s National Book Association of South Florida’s meeting. Cost for nonmembers is $10.

Oline H. Cogdill can be reached at olinecog@aol.com.

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