Everybody lies. It’s what Dr. House used to say, and it’s certainly something to keep in mind with Sharon Bolton’s edgy stand-alone thriller, Little Black Lies (St. Martin’s Press, digital galley). The tale of guilt, revenge and murder unfolds from the perspective of three flawed residents of the Falkland Islands, whose rocky cliffs provide a foreboding backdrop. Sealife conservationist Catrin, consumed with grief over the accidental death of her two young sons, is drawn into the search for a missing child, as are her ex-lover Callum, a soldier with PTSD, and Rachel, Catrin’s former best friend whom she holds responsible for her son’s deaths. The discovery of human remains links the case of the missing boy to two previous disappearances, and emotions run high as the tight-knit community searches for a killer and/or scapegoat. Mixed motives, false confessions, surprise betrayals. And lots and lots of lies.
Ani FaNelli, narrator of Jessica Knoll’s Luckiest Girl Alive (Simon and Schuster, digital galley), is an accomplished liar and pretentious fake who thinks the lie of a life she’s created in New York — glamorous magazine job, designer duds, blue-blooded fiance — is going to make up for her hidden, wounded past. When she was 14 and a newcomer to Bradley, a prestigious private school on Philadelphia’s Main Line, she was involved in a violent incident that has acquired its own mythos over the last 15 years. Now, the making of a documentary film and the reappearance of Ani’s favorite high school teacher are forcing her to confront her darkest secrets. Knoll builds suspense by alternating Ani’s present life as her Nantucket wedding approaches with chapters recounting her harrowing experiences at Bradley. The title, in case you haven’t figured it out, is ironic. I can’t remember a more self-loathing character.
Let’s go from dark to lite. Dorothea Benton Frank’s chatty and cheery All the Single Ladies (Morrow/HarperCollins, digital galley) features three women of a certain age brought together by the death of a friend. After narrator Lisa loses her rental apartment, she ends up sharing an Isle of Palms beach house with new gal pals Carrie and Suzanne, as well as Suzanne’s feisty 99-year-old grandmother. There’s a bit of a mystery as they try to track down their late friend Kathy’s family members while dealing with her light-fingered landlady. Romance arrives when Lisa meets a great new guy, and drama ensues involving ex-husbands, rebellious kids and manipulative mothers. Best of all, Frank provides a heaping helping of local color, Charleston-style, with lots of glorious food and sinful drinks. All the Single Ladies makes me think I could solve the world’s problems — or at least mine — given a beach house on IOP.
A mother-daughter relationship falls apart and needs rebuilding in Barbara Delinsky’s new novel Blueprints (St. Martin’s Press, digital galley). Caroline MacAfee, a master carpenter, and her architect daughter Jamie work for a successful New England construction company and co-host a local home renovation show with the unappealing name of Gut It. They are best friends, too, until Caroline’s ex-husband connives with the show’s producers to demote Caroline and promote Jamie as chief host, a betrayal that Caroline blames on Jamie. Even as Jamie tries to mend fences with her mom, her personal life turns upside down when she suddenly finds herself taking care of an orphaned toddler after a family accident. Her fiance doesn’t like instant fatherhood, but another guy/single parent is at the ready with all kinds of support. Caroline also finds romance with a longtime friend. The family relationships vie for attention with the construction company’s woes, but, happily, the humans are more interesting than the houses. As much as I like HGTV, I found reading about corbels and beams and blueprints about as much fun as watching paint dry.
Patti Callahan Henry sets her engaging new novel The Idea of Love (St. Martin’s Press, digital galley) in a coastal South Carolina town she calls Watersend, but it reminds me of Beaufort and she’s borrowed Walterboro’s marketing slogan, “the Front Porch of the Lowcountry.” Never mind. Watersend makes a charming backdrop for a romance between two wounded romantics. Hunter is a Hollywood screenwriter with a broken marriage and two recent flops to his credit. Now he’s pretending to be a travel writer in hopes of turning some stranger’s love story into his next screenplay, which is how he meets pretty Ella. She’s a recent widow and wedding dress designer whose devoted husband was killed in a tragic boating accident. She wishes. Her husband dumped her for her best friend’s sister and she sells satin shoes at at a local salon. As one lie leads to another, that tangled web turns into a knot of misunderstandings, but retired bookseller Mimi hits on the truth when she advises Ella to forget about her hound-dog husband returning home: “You can’t wait for someone else to give you permission to chase your life.”
Jill Mansell writes fun, flirty British chick lit, and Making Your Mind Up (Sourcebooks, digital galley) is a merry-go-round of messy relationships. Single mom Lottie feels sparks with her new American boss, Tyler, but several obstacles present themselves — his longtime girlfriend, who comes for a visit, and Lottie’s two kids, who take an instant dislike to Tyler. They much prefer Lottie’s other suitor, Seb, who seems kind of perfect — or is he? Subplots include Lottie’s friend Cressida’s attachment to her ex-husband’s daughter with his second wife, aging Freddie, who searches for people from his past with mixed results, and Lottie’s ex Mario, determined not to cheat on his new girlfriend. It’s all kind of wildly improbable, but expect happy endings.