Title: Once Upon a Lie by Maggie Barbieri
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 301 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Maeve Conlon’s life is coming apart at the seams. Her bakery is barely making ends meet, and one of her daughters spends as much time grounded as the other does studying. Her ex-husband has a new wife, a new baby, and a look of pity for Maeve that’s absolutely infuriating. Her father insists he’s still independent, but he’s slowly and obviously succumbing to Alzheimer’s. And now, her cousin Sean Donovan has been found dead, sitting in his car in a public park, shot through the head.
There was never much love lost between Maeve and Sean and she’s not exactly devastated by his death, but suddenly the police are poking around asking the family questions. It’s just one more hassle Maeve doesn’t have time for, until she realizes that her father, whose memory and judgment are unreliable at best, is a suspect in the murder. Maeve is determined to clear his name, but is she prepared to cope with the dark memories and long-hidden secrets that doing so might dredge up?
Maggie Barbieri will mesmerize readers with Once Upon a Lie, a gripping novel about family, justice, and the choices we make that define who we are.
Maggie Barbieri’s Once Upon a Lie is a suspense-laden mystery that takes many unexpected twists and turns. Not the typical police procedural, this compelling whodunnit is a fascinating story that I found impossible to put down.
Lead protagonist Maeve Conlon is one of the most complex and well-crafted characters that I have encountered in a very long time. On the surface, she is a typical harried divorced mom juggling the demands of caring for an aging parent, raising her teenage daughters and trying to keep her bakery in the black. She has a dry wit and off beat sense of humor that kept me giggling off and on throughout the story. Her patience with her father is never-ending and this part of the storyline is quite poignant and a little bit heartbreaking. Maeve is fiercely protective of her daughters and I just had to laugh at the lengths she is willing to go to in her attempts to keep them out of trouble.
But there is a dark side to Maeve that has its roots in her tangled past with Sean. Bits and pieces of her traumatic childhood are slowly revealed throughout Once Upon a Lie and although I had a pretty good idea of what Maeve’s secrets might be, the complete truth is still pretty shocking. What, if any, impact these past events have on the present remains unclear for most of the story and even with full knowledge of Maeve’s past, I was absolutely stunned by not only her actions, but the novel’s dramatic conclusion.
Once Upon a Lie is a riveting murder mystery with a well-developed and sympathetic cast of characters. The plot is unique and full of surprising twists and I cannot wait to see what Maggie Barbieri has planned for future installments inthis innovative and intriguing series.