My first Moriarty book was What Alice Forgot, a fast, entertaining read with memorable characters and an unusual story. Then I picked up The Husband’s Secret, and saw that she really stepped up her game. Big Little Lies is her latest and it appears that Moriarty just keeps upping the bar.
The book opens at a school event for parents in the small beach town of Pirriwee, Australia – but it could be Any Town, USA, too. This costume event – all the parents are dressed as Elvis Presley or Audry Hepburn, is part of a Trivia Night fundraiser for the public elementary school. The drinks are strong and the food hasn’t arrived yet, so everyone is getting drunk and having a good time, that is until someone dies. The police are called, and then we are left hanging – the story moves back in time to six months earlier.
Sprinkled throughout the pages are little snippets from the police interviews, with parents gossiping about everything that’s gone on that semester. This is black comedy at its best, and the story moves back towards the day of reckoning with lightning speed.
At its heart, this is a story is about bullying. On the first day of school, Amabella (not a misspelling) accuses Ziggy of trying to choke her, and has the bruises to prove it. Ziggy and his very young, single mom Jane have just moved to this small town and he instantly becomes the class pariah. The parents all take sides, with the emotional Madeleine and the super wealthy Celeste forming the Jane triumverate, and the “blonde bobs,” a group of helicopter moms with identical haircuts, taking the other side.
The perfect Celeste is in a deeply troubled marriage, but no one knows. Madeleine’s teenage daughter (from her first marriage) is pulling away from her and towards her new stepmother, the eternally calm, yoga loving Bonnie. And Jane is running away from something.
There are so many secrets in this small town, the malicious gossip is scintillating and neverending, and the characters are fraught with all the foibles we’ve come to expect from Moriarty. The way she builds almost unbearable suspense is simply magical, especially as we don’t even know who dies until the end, never mind who did it. Moriarty has become one of my favorite authors and this is a page turner of the finest kind. Don’t miss it.
7/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
BIG LITTLE LIES by Liane Moriarty. Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam (July 29, 2014). ISBN 978-0399167065. 384p.