Title: Crooked Little Lies by Barbara Taylor Sissel
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 381 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
On a cool October morning, Lauren Wilder is shaken when she comes close to striking Bo Laughlin with her car as he’s walking along the road’s edge. A young man well known in their small town of Hardys Walk, Texas, Bo seems fine, even if Lauren’s intuition says otherwise. Since the accident two years ago that left her brain in a fragile state, she can’t trust her own instincts—and neither can her family. Then Bo vanishes, and as the search for him ensues, the police question whether she’s responsible. Lauren is terrified, not of what she remembers but of what she doesn’t.
Unable to trust herself and unwilling to trust anyone else, Lauren begins her own investigation into the mystery of Bo’s disappearance. But the truth can prove to be as shocking as any lie, and as Lauren exposes each one, from her family, from her friends, she isn’t the only one who will face heart-stopping repercussions.
Part psychological thriller and part mystery, Crooked Little Lies is a suspense-laden novel by Barbara Taylor Sissel. A chance encounter with an eccentric young man who later vanishes plunges lead protagonist Lauren Wilder into a perplexing and confusing search for answers about his disappearance.
Lauren’s recovery from a horrible accident has been slow and arduous and while mostly healed, she is still troubled by the lingering effects of a brain injury. She is frustrated by the ongoing memory problems that continue to crop up and although she has overcome her addiction to pain killers, her family still finds it difficult to trust her. A wrong turn puts her in the path of Bo Laughlin, a man in his early twenties whose unconventional lifestyle makes him vulnerable to being taken advantage of. When he disappears, Lauren is compelled to search out Bo’s sister Annie Beauchamp and the two women track down leads they uncover during their search for the missing man.
While Bo is only briefly mention at the beginning of the story, his presence is keenly felt throughout the investigation. While at first it appears his life is an open book, Annie and Lauren uncover the bits and pieces that he kept hidden. Although nothing nefarious is discovered, these unknown associations and tidbits reveal facets of his personality and day to day life that add to the heartbreak of his disappearance. His intelligence and kindheartedness are often overlooked due to his eccentricities and these unexpected revelations create a well-rounded, three dimensional character that is easy to care about.
Lauren has overcome incredible odds in the nearly two years since her terrible fall and although she still deals with a little pain from her physical injuries, it is her memory issues that continue to be an ongoing problem. Her memories are sometimes confusing and she occasionally experiences difficulty remembering the details of daily life. She is easily distracted and forgetful which leads to some very stressful confrontations with her husband Jeff and their kids, Drew and Kenzie. Her family’s trust is fragile and they easily doubt her after her erratic behavior becomes eerily reminiscent of her recent drug addiction. As the situation intensifies, Lauren becomes paranoid and suspicious of her husband and sister and she has great difficulty distinguishing reality from her vivid dreams. Her fear, distress and concern are palpable and Lauren is a somewhat unreliable narrator because she cannot separate fact from fiction but this just makes her more sympathetic and appealing.
Annie is an equally likable character but she is a little abrasive as she tries to find out what happened to Bo. There is never any doubt that Annie deeply loves her stepbrother and as she sifts through the days leading up to his disappearance, she experiences guilt and doubt that she did not do enough to help him. Annie is quick to reject offers of help but she feels an instant connection to Lauren. The two pursue leads the police dismiss but disturbing information about Lauren’s past and her associations with persons of interest in the case eventually raise Annie’s suspicions.
Crooked Little Lies is a complex and riveting novel that has many surprising twists and turns. The storyline is compelling, well written and unique. The characters are brilliantly developed and their doubts and fears are believable and easy to relate to. Barbara Taylor Sissel expertly builds the suspense surrounding Bo’s disappearance to a fever pitch and the novel’s conclusion is dramatic and rather shocking. An excellent mystery with a strong psychological element that I highly recommend to fans of the genre.