Three Little Lies
Three Little Lies is the second offering from author Laura Marshall. It’s one of those books with a synopsis that sounds like a thousand others you’ve read recently, and yet, once you get fully immersed in the lives of the characters, you realize it’s far more complex than you first thought.
Sasha and Ellen meet in 2006, when Sasha and the family she lives with move in across the street from Ellen’s childhood home. Ellen is almost immediately fascinated by the artsy, bohemian lives the Monktons seem to live. She wants desperately to be thought of as one of them, and it is through her burgeoning friendship with Sasha that she begins to achieve this deeply held desire. Soon, she’s spending every spare moment with Sasha and the Monktons, and yet, she can’t help but wonder about the secrets Sasha seems to be keeping.
Then, on New Year’s Eve, tragedy strikes, and the lives of Ellen, Sasha, and their families are changed in unimaginable ways. Suddenly, everything Ellen thought she knew about this family she practically worships is called into question, and she finds her loyalties put to the ultimate test.
Ten years later, Ellen and Sasha are living together in a London flat. Ellen still considers Sasha to be her closest friend, but it’s obvious from the start that Ellen is far more invested in the friendship than Sasha. When Sasha fails to return home from work one evening, Ellen is immediately worried. What if someone has learned the truth about that long ago night and is trying to get even with Sasha? Of course, she calls the police to report her friend missing, but they don’t take her seriously, and so Ellen decides to look into Sasha’s disappearance on her own. After all, if whatever has happened to Sasha is related to that terrible New Year’s Eve, Ellen might be in danger as well.
My description of the plot probably sounds a little vague, but it’s important for potential readers to go into this story with as little information as possible. I very much enjoyed trying to fit the various pieces of the puzzle into place, and a more complete summary would spoil that for you. Just be prepared for a very twisty ride, and remember to trust absolutely no one.
The story is told mostly from Ellen’s point of view, but we also see things from Olivia Monkton’s perspective. We move back and forth between 2006 and present day, but Ms. Marshall makes it very easy to keep up with things. I never struggled to understand where I was in the timeline or through whose lens I was seeing events.
If you’re someone who needs to like the characters you’re reading about, this particular story might prove difficult for you. Most of the characters are deeply flawed, and while I didn’t out-and-out dislike very many of them, neither did I fully embrace them. Ellen, for example, is incredibly idealistic, and there were several times I found myself frustrated by her seeming inability to see things the way they really were instead of through rose-tinted glasses. The Monktons are quite wealthy, and all of them possess a sense of entitlement I found difficult to deal with. Fortunately, the story was compelling enough to keep me reading despite the tricky nature of the characters.
The novel contains a great deal of discussion of sexual assault. It’s not unnecessarily graphic, but neither does Ms. Marshall hold back when she describes the unfolding of certain events. Still, she handles the topic with a great deal of sensitivity. I never felt she was sensationalizing things, or painting survivors in a bad light, but I recognize that the subject matter might be troubling for some readers.
I figured a few things out before the end of the book, but that didn’t ruin my overall enjoyment of the story. Of course, I would have preferred to be a bit more caught off guard, but that’s hard when you read as many thrillers as I do.
This isn’t the best novel of psychological suspense I’ve read this year, but it’s definitely far from the weakest. It takes some familiar subjects and puts a unique spin on them, making this a book I’m pleased to recommend to fans of this particular subgenre. Ms. Marshall has crafted an extremely intense story that is sure to keep readers engaged and make them think at the same time.