Hello everyone, today I’m pleased to provide you all with a review and extract of the fantastic novel Sweet Little Lies by Cat Frear. In the extract Cat discusses the tough female detective surviving in a sexist man’s world and whether this really exists in 2017, I would love to hear your thoughts too. I hope you’ll enjoy!
Sweet Little Lies, set in contemporary London but with flashbacks to late 1990s Ireland, sees police detective Cat Kinsella investigating the murder of Alice Lapaine. Alice’s body is discovered near the pub Cat’s father runs and when evidence links Alice to a girl who went missing in Ireland eighteen years previously – a girl Cat’s father denied knowing even though Cat knows he lied – the secrets and resentments of the past threaten to spill out.
DC Cat Kinsella’s past and present are thrust together when a current murder investigation links to the disappearance of a girl she knew growing up, and who was never found. To throw more curiosity in the pot, we learn that Cat has always suspected that her father had some involvement during that summer long ago. Cat is forced to confront her suspicions and worst fears, as she unfolds the mystery of what happens to Maryanne putting her job in jeopardy and perhaps biting off more than she can chew.
I really enjoyed Cat as our protagonist and young detective, and I found it particularly interesting with the great detail there was in the police procedural. Within the first chapter I knew I would find this book hard to put down, as the story line was incredibly engrossing. I loved that the investigation was personal to Cat as it cast some interesting questions and premises. Realising your Dad could be connected to a murder, and how your feelings would effect you carrying out your job and the personal feelings involved- all which I would find incredibly hard and messy to deal with.
I found the switching between the past and present a great way for us the reader to find out who Cat is and what she was like as an eight year old, who believes her father is a hero; and also an older and wiser Cat whose father had been dropped from her high expectations and someone who she can now see through. The plot is brilliantly played out with a few curveballs, offering us suspense and a great surprise twist at the end which I definitely didn’t see coming! Having a surprise at the end of a crime thriller such as this is so important for me, and Caz absolutely nailed it. The ending isn’t rushed, but unravelled slowly and methodically as we gather more and more clues by Cat in her investigation.
Sweet Little Lies is a brilliant debut novel from an author I’m definitely wanting to read more from very soon, if you love crime thrillers then Caz Frear with Sweet Little Lies is your next stop!
‘The tough female detective surviving in a sexist man’s world – does this really still exist in 2017?’
I am obsessed with Prime Suspect – the original. If there’s a word stronger than obsessed, then I’m that too. I first watched it when I was twelve years old and I honestly was never the same again. In fact, I firmly believe that it put me on the path to being a crime-writer. It’s just flawless – the writing, the acting, everything. I can recite the whole thing from start to finish, no question.
However, Prime Suspect wasn’t just cracking entertainment, it was ground-breaking in much more important ways. A pin-sharp depiction of how it felt to be a woman in the police force in the late eighties (it first aired in 1990) and in that sense, it was as much an exposé as a fictional drama.
Its authentic brilliance is all down to Lynda La Plante’s obsession with getting it right which resulted in her close work with Jackie Malton – one of only 3 female DCIs at the time. Jackie’s input no doubt gave Prime Suspect it’s gold standard and since then she’s been one of the most strident voices on sexism and diversity within the police force. Through Jackie Malton, we heard how throwaway comments about a woman’s breasts (and more) were ten-a-penny, how pornography was left lying around in communal spaces to belittle/unsettle female colleagues, and how – and this really does shock – domestic violence complaints were regularly dismissed as simple ‘tiffs’ between a husband and wife.
And all this barely scratches the surface. We only need to glance at the more recent (and not that great – sorry) Prime Suspect 1973 to see that back then, women were there to make the tea, make the notes and take the abuse (‘bants’ we’d call it today).
However, as eager as Jackie Malton was to expose the tough, sometimes unbearable, working lives of women police officers back then, she’s since been equally vocal in her belief that things are changing – slowly. She points out that the police service has been the lead organisation in the ‘Gender Agenda’ debate, where female officers have been at the forefront of change, and she firmly believes that while there is still a tonne of work to do, today’s police service actually sets a decent example to other employers (certainly to other male-dominated industries). No greater evidence of Malton’s optimism can be found in the fact that, for the first time ever, there are three women at the head of the emergency services. Step forward….
Cressida Dick – Metropolitan Police Commissioner (who incidentally is paid £40,000 less than her male predecessor). Passionately committed to diversity and happily settled in a same-sex relationship, she flies in the face of the alpha-male stereotype of yesteryear.
Dany Cotton – London Fire Brigade Commissioner. When Cotton first joined the fire service in 1988, three male colleagues at her station put in for a transfer. She’s now dedicated to driving out the “hairy-arsed” macho image in order to ensure a more diverse workforce. And don’t get her started on Fireman Sam.
Heather Lawrence – Chair of London Ambulance Service
But do these high-profile appointments tell us everything? Well no. They show that great strides are being made and they should be shouted from the rooftops at every available opportunity, but I still can’t help wondering if there’s still quite a different feeling at the coal-face. If day-to-day policing has really changed that much for women?
Not being an oracle on this subject (at all!), I spoke to a few police officers – male and female. Obviously my sample group was embarrassingly small but what I did find interesting was that two of the people I spoke to (who were completely unconnected) answered with the exact same words, and the others pretty much echoed the same sentiment.
“Well there’s certainly less overt sexism around….”
Mmmm. So should we take this as some sort of progress? I mean, ‘less overt’ sexism is a far cry from equality. Don’t get wrong, ‘less overt’ is better than ‘overt’ in terms of women being able to get the job done without fear of intimidation, harassment or belittlement, but if it’s still there, underneath – if the feelings still exist but they’re just masked by the acceptance that ‘the lads’ have to be a bit more ‘PC’ these days, have we actually moved on at all? Another comment that came up a few times was “there’s always one bad apple though” which I took to mean that every team has it’s dinosaur – although, in fairness, that’s not just the police force. Every industry has it’s, “’Ere, can’t you take a joke, luv’ idiot.
Then there’s the wider question of how easy is it for women to climb the police ladder and have a fulfilling family life (or even an unfulfilling one!) Again, it could be argued that this issue affects many, many industries but I think policing is quite an extreme example – flexible working requests etc are notoriously hard to accommodate (and if you work in 999 response, forget it). Interestingly, it was remarked that within murder teams, which are often of a decent size, you might be able to get a bit more flexibility, simply because there are more bodies on the ground. But still, long shifts, late nights, are always going to be a feature of the job and there is definitely a slight sniffiness towards people (usually women) who have to leave the office on time, come what may.
Human nature that you’ll never quite eliminate? Or blatant discrimination that must be addressed? The debate rages on….
Caz Frear grew up in Coventry and spent her teenage years dreaming of moving to London and writing a novel. After fulfilling her first dream, it wasn’t until she moved back to Coventry thirteen years later that the writing dream finally came true. She has a first-class degree in History & Politics and for the past twelve years, a headhunter. When she’s not agonising over snappy dialogue or incisive prose, she can be found shouting at the TV when Arsenal are playing or holding court in the pub on topics she knows nothing about.
Many thanks to Bonnier Publishing and Emily for inviting me on the tour and receiving a copy of the novel for an honest review.