“WHAT I THOUGHT I KNEW
In 1998, Maryanne Doyle disappeared and Dad knew something about it?
Maryanne Doyle was never seen again.
WHAT I ACTUALLY KNOW
In 1998, Dad lied about knowing Maryanne Doyle.
Alice Lapaine has been found strangled near Dad’s pub.
Dad was in the local area for both Maryanne Doyle’s disappearance and Alice Lapaine’s murder – FACT
Trust cuts both ways . . . what do you do when it’s gone?”
I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the Sweet Little Lies blog tour. Sweet Little Lies is written by debut author, Caz Frear and was named the winner of the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition in conjunction with retailer WHSmith. To celebrate the release of this engrossing crime thriller not only do I have my four and a half star review, I also have a fantastic guest post (yay! I do love a guest post!) on a subject close to my heart. Well, sort of anyway! So without further ado, I’ll hand over to Caz…
Do female protagonists in crime fiction always have to have a ‘love interest’?
‘A love interest nearly always weakens a mystery because it introduces a type of suspense that is antagonistic to the detective’s struggle to solve the problem. The only effective love interest is that which creates a personal hazard for the detective….’
“Casual Notes on the Mystery Novel” (essay, 1949), first published in Raymond Chandler Speaking (1962)
I’ll be honest, I’m with Raymond on this one. But as nearly seven decades have passed since he first offered his thoughts, I thought, what the hell, maybe it’s time to play devil’s advocate and see if I can make a case for the ‘love interest’ in female-led crime fiction. After all, women, more than ever, are the primary readers of crime fiction and they also remain the primary readers of romance fiction, so what harm in combining the two, right? A twisty, disturbing crime thriller and a romance sub-plot all under the same roof. What more could we ask for, eh?
Although I’d kind-of-just-about-maybe agree with this if we could at least change the profile of the ‘love interest’ for a start.
In fairness, the injection of a ‘love interest’ isn’t just peculiar to female-led crime fiction. Morse was always mooning over someone – trying, and usually failing, to seduce some posh lady with his Mark II Jag and mournful eyes. DCI Banks always has a girlfriend – usually they’re significantly younger and significantly hotter than he is, but somehow they’re always completely gaga over the wiry, aging jazz fan. Even DI Frost, with his prickly manner, even pricklier moustache and decades-old grey coat, is never without an attractive (and usually younger) woman trying to bed him, and more-often-than-not, domesticate him.
But therein lie some crucial differences – the‘love interest’ in female-led crime is almost always…
- Older, or at least of a similar age – for example, how many 40-something female protagonists have a twenty-something male model-type go completely nuts about them, all on the strength of their charismatic personality? NEVER. HAPPENS (but regularly happens the other way round)
- Their boss or superior colleague (again, very rarely happens the other way round)
- More, or at the very least as successful as the female protagonist, in their chosen field.
- Aesthetically anonymous – much less focus on how gorgeous they are, and when their physical characteristics are described, they quite often aren’t gorgeous at all – our female protagonist simply loves them for their wrinkles/soft paunch/balding head etc, (I’ll say it again, very rarely happens the other way round.)
But in the interests of challenging Raymond Chandler (!) I’ll step down from my soapbox for a minute and share a few thoughts about why it’s sometimes good for our female protagonist to have a ‘love interest.’
- No woman is an island. Very few are a Billy-no-Mates. Realistically, everyone has someone they can turn to, and arguably an intimate romantic relationship has more dramatic potential than the ‘chatting-with-a-best-friend-over-a-bottle-of-wine’ scenario, within the context of a crime novel.
- In a genre where men don’t always get the best press – a lot of crime fiction focuses on male violence against women – a well-characterised male love interest serves as a reminder of the Good Men around.
- Romantic relationships showcase a character’s vulnerability – you often open up to a lover in ways you don’t with other people.
- Most women want/need sex from time to time, even if they don’t want steady romance, and therefore if you’re not comfortable creating a female lead who has quite a casual approach to hook-ups, you’re going to have to give her some sort of formal ‘love interest.’ It’s just not realistic for our female protagonist to live like a nun.
- Sexual tension is fun. It’s interesting. It’s delightful to write. The will-they-won’t-they has never lost its appeal and when it simmers just beneath the surface, it can add a new level of tension to a crime novel (I’m thinking here of the brilliant dynamic between Derwent and Kerrigan in Jane Casey’s fantastic series – I actually enjoy this aspect more than the Maeve-and-Rob romance.)
Finally, just to say that despite my earlier talk about not loving the ‘love interest’, there is one in Sweet Little Lies, in the form of dishy Aiden Doyle (I know, I know….hypocrite…) However, in my defence I will add (with a cryptic smile) that only time will tell how much of a “personal hazard for the detective” Aiden becomes…….
Let’s just say Raymond Chandler wouldn’t judge me too harshly….
Brilliant post, thank you Caz. Regular visitors to the blog will know that I’m not a fan of slushy mushy romance in my crime thrillers so I found your arguments for a love interest fascinating. Have I changed my stance? Not quite, but the rather lovely Aiden Doyle COULD change my mind…. 😉
Whilst on holiday in Ireland with her family, eight year old Catrina is unwittingly drawn into a missing persons investigation. Teenager, Maryanne Doyle; loud, brash and very much in your face, goes missing. Catrina doesn’t know what happened to Maryanne but she is sure of one thing. Her father lied to the police. He claimed to not have known the teenager but Catrina vividly remembers Maryanne hitch hiking and her dad picking her up. After all, Catrina was in the car as well. Fast forward 18 years and Catrina is now DC Cat Kinsella with the Met’s Murder team. Called to investigate the brutal murder of Alice Lapaine, the team find nothing but a secretive husband and a lot of dead ends. Can Cat find out what happened to Maryanne all those years ago, exactly what part her father played in her disappearance AND solve a motiveless murder at the same time…?
So many delicious secrets! This is a wonderfully intricate tale which I found hard to put down. I was immediately drawn to the feisty Cat Kinsella. She absolutely made the book for me and I couldn’t tear myself away from reading about her exploits. How I loved her dry wit, her gutsy determination and her adorable relationship with Acting DI Luigi Parnell. I found myself caring about what was going to happen to Cat, whether she would discover the truth and whether it would be the truth she actually wanted to hear.
For me, the characters in a book are one of the most important factors. I feel Caz Frear deserves high praise for the cast of characters she has created in this novel. After finishing the book I can still bring to mind certain scenarios, conversations and interactions between her creations. They all stand tall, each one an individual.
Would I recommend this book? I would. It’s an excellent debut and I’m excited to see what Caz Frear has in store for us in the future. It’s a gripping read, full of suspense and intrigue, chock full of lies and deceit from a sometimes dubious cast of characters.
Four and a half out of five stars.
I chose to read and review an eARC of Sweet Little Lies. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.
Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear was published in the UK by Bonnier Zaffre on 29th June 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Foyles | Book Depository |
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