Latest review: One Little Lie by Colleen Coble

By Ekta R. Garg

March 18, 2020

Genre: Christian mystery

Release date: March 3, 2020

Rated: Borrow it / 3 stars

A woman gets her father’s old job and is challenged by the biggest atrocities her town has seen in years. She’ll need to do everything she can to forget her traumatic past and focus on her work, all while she reconsiders the idea of faith, if she wants to succeed. Christian author Colleen Coble places a woman in a traditionally man’s role in the fairly likable novel One Little Lie.

Jane Hardy receives the honor of becoming the police chief of the small force in her town of Pelican Harbor, Alabama, along the Gulf Coast. She’s pleased and a little intimidated by her new position; after all, she’s stepping right into the shoes of her father, the former chief. He has an excellent reputation, and she doesn’t want to let him or the town down in any way.

She doesn’t have time to think about any of that, however. Two bodies have been found, murdered in disturbing ways. These latest murders follow other mysterious killings in the area, which the officers have started calling the vigilante killings due to the vindictive nature of the murders. The murderer has left messages with the victims, because he—or she—clearly thinks the victims are perpetrators themselves. No one knows what they did, though, or why they deserved punishment.

Jane runs, literally, into Reid Dixon. A celebrated documentary filmmaker, Reid’s newest piece will focus on how small police forces help their towns. Despite her unease, Jane agrees to let Reid follow her around town as she investigates the latest murders.

Clues start coming out but don’t make any sense, and Jane struggles to put them together into a cohesive narrative. When she turns to her dad for advice, he’s reluctant to offer any. At first Jane thinks this is his normal reticence. Since he rescued her from the cult where they lived for more than a decade, her dad’s always been quiet.

Then the FBI comes to Jane with a stunning announcement: they’re holding her father as a person of interest in the murders. She fights them on the charge, but they have just enough evidence to make her father look suspicious. Reid lends moral support and works to help her solve the mystery, and the closer they get to one another the more Jane thinks of her childhood years in the cult. Why, she wonders, are these memories coming back now? And what will she do if her dad really is guilty?

Author Colleen Coble offers readers a chance to watch a protagonist in an unusual role. As an authority figure, Jane deals with insubordinate officers as well as ingratiating ones. Despite the stereotypical description of a petite frame, Jane’s honesty and integrity shine. So does her loyalty to her father. When other officers make cogent arguments as to why she shouldn’t be so quick in defending him, Jane struggles with the morality versus the legality of the information on hand. That struggle comes across as real and relatable.

The book suffers from too much of a pedantic approach. Characters have conversations, and then the narrative jumps in to explain what they just talked about. In the tussle between “show, don’t tell,” Coble errs too much on the side of telling readers what’s going on instead of letting the story unfold on its own. At some point, readers might get a little antsy with this method.

The connection to the cult, too, seems unnecessary. While Coble makes the different portions of Jane’s life fit well enough, it’s unclear why she needed to suffer through being in a cult. Even with a big revelation toward the end that most readers will see coming long before Jane does, the cult itself doesn’t serve a larger purpose in the novel.

Coble handles Jane’s questioning of faith in a realistic way as well, though, making one thing clear: when people face the worst of humanity, as law enforcement officers do, it can make them second-guess everything they know to be true. Readers who enjoy this type of story will enjoy this book. For everyone else, I suggest they Borrow One Little Lie.

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