Maeve Conlon’s life wasn’t exactly great before she found out that her cousin Sean was found murdered. And now? Things have somehow become even worse. Her bakery is struggling, her teenage daughters are difficult, and her ex-husband’s new baby is just infuriating. Oh, that, and the police have zeroed in on her Alzheimer’s-ridden father as Sean’s murderer. Maeve must continue to juggle her many priorities while also convincing the police that her father couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with Sean’s death.
Maggie Barbieri examines the notion of family in Once Upon a Lie through the prism of Sean’s murder. It’s a thrilling novel, filled with complicated relationships and an investigation into the meaning of justice. Crime fiction and mystery fans shouldn’t hesitate to pick this one up.
Family. It’s complicated. Maeve knows that very well, as she argues with her daughters, bites her tongue when her ex-husband flaunts his new-found happiness, and scolds her father for “escaping” from his care home. But Maeve loves her family more than anything and will protect them as fiercely as she can—that is, except for Sean. Maeve didn’t have anything nice to say about Sean when he was alive, and she can’t help but be relieved that he’s dead. But when the police begin sniffing around her family for a motive, she knows she must take matters into her own hands. It’s this examination of family relationships that gives Once Upon a Lie an added depth, more than most mystery novels.
The twists and turns in Once Upon a Lie make for entertaining (and gripping) reading. This is a novel you could easily devour in one sitting. As more comes to light about Sean and his proclivities, readers will race through the novel, wanting to know who, in the end, brought justice to this despicable character. Indeed, justice is a theme that runs throughout the novel; what should be done when you can’t protect those you love? It’s thought-provoking questions like this that make this novel worth reading.
Maeve is an excellently written character; her confident voice carries the reader through the story. She’s smart, resourceful, and very witty; Barbieri did a great job bringing her to life. Indeed, all the characters in this novel, both major and minor, are well written and engaging. This is a book you’ll be sad to put down; it’s easy to become immersed in this world that Barbieri has created. It’s an excellently constructed mystery novel that readers of the genre will revel in, while those who enjoy character driven stories will appreciate how well Barbieri wrote Maeve. Here’s hoping that Barbieri is planning on revisiting Maeve soon in a future novel, as I’m not quite ready to say goodbye.