New Book – Little Lies by Heather Gudenkauf

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Publishing year: 2014

I read this novella this morning.

I realized that this is a prequel to the author’s Little Mercies, which I read a while ago. Thankfully, the two books are quite independent. We get to know Ellen who is a forty-five-year-old social worker, happily married, and with three children. This novella takes place a few months before Little Mercies, and Ellen is back to work after her maternity leave. The case that she deals with in this book is different to the one in Little Mercies. She is woken up in the middle of the night by a call from Joe, his policeman friend, who tells her about a woman being found murdered in a park and her little boy was found next to her undamaged. Ellen and Joe realize that this case was almost identical to a murder that took place thirteen years before. A woman was also found in the same location and her son was there unharmed.

Ellen talks to the little boy who finally tells her that his name is Mason, but the only information the police get from him is that his mother was crying at home and gave him some medicine. Then he also remembers some black boots with buckles on them. That day Mason’s grandmother, Judith, appears, and she tells the police that she was worried when her daughter Marissa hadn’t contacted her for a few days.

Joe tells Ellen that maybe Jonah, the boy who was found next to his murdered mother thirteen years ago, could be involved in this case as they discover that Jonah lives close to Marissa and the boy knew the woman. Joe even gets more suspicious because the boy has fled. Ellen can’t believe Jonah is involved, and then when she is about to leave in her van, someone barges into the car. It is Jonah, who tells her he didn’t kill Marissa but saw her in the park buying drugs. He says that he is scared and won’t talk to the police because he believes he won’t believe her in the same way as Judith, Marissa’s mother didn’t believe him.

Ellen considers Jonah’s words and thinks she can try to talk to Mason again, so she decides to visit the flat. Judith is in the process of packing everything. When the woman says she doesn’t know Jonah, Ellen grows suspicious and then she sees a couple of boots in a bag and she realizes that they are the boots that Mason saw. Judith realizes that she has been caught and comes to her with a knife. The woman confesses that she killed her daughter. Worried about her grandson, she turned up in the apartment to find Mason drugged and alone, so the woman took him in her car to find her daughter and she located her in the park. There was a confrontation and Marissa threatened her mother to keep Mason away from her. Then Judith hit her daughter with the bottle Marissa had, and the blow was so hard that she ended up killing her. Scared, she took off her daughter’s coat and boots and dumped them into a bin so that it would appear as if the crime had been committed somehwere else, and a woman like her wouldn’t be suspected. Then she called the police anonymously to make sure her grandson was rescued.

Thankfully, Ellen escapes unscathed as Mason appears so Judith can’t bring herself to hurt Ellen. Judith is arrested, and Ellen reflexes that what Judith was much more serious than an accident. The woman was ready to let a boy like Jonah shoulder the blame.

I am not very fond of novellas since I usually find them lacking depth. Yet, I have to say that this short story was much better than what I expected. It was a great plot with a superb twist at the end.

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