Liane Moriarty is the Agatha Christie of the modern, suburban age. Her most recent novel Big Little Lies takes place in a small, northern neighborhood in Sydney, Australia, where there is only one small kindergarten for a variety of children and parents with not-so-small personalities.
The novel opens up with a view from outside of the school looking in: the parents are having an Elvis and Audrey Hepburn-themed trivia night. There is alcohol, joking and laughing. The laughs turn to screams and someone is dead.
Flash back six months beforehand and Moriarty gives the reader a web of stories to help them determine who will die during trivia night and who might be to blame.
The story is told mainly from the perspective of three mothers. The main protagonist, Madeline, is a bubbly woman who blabs secrets when she shouldn’t and is still a self-confessed lover of drama at age 40. Her best friend Celeste is an impossibly beautiful woman with rambunctious twin boys and a husband who makes up for his secret abuse with fancy vacations and jewelry. These two befriend Jane, a young mother whose son Ziggy is called out on the first day of school for bullying the daughter of a powerful woman that Madeline hates, thereby creating a rift between two groups of parents that will last until the fateful trivia night.
The book is written in a gossipy, bitchy tone that reveals that Pirriwee has problems beyond a murder; infidelity, domestic violence and bullying are all among the things that have a hand in the eventual death. At the end of every chapter, Moriarty gives the reader a glimpse into the investigation of the death by showing interviews the police are holding with the parents who attended trivia night. The parents seem to know little of what truly went on, creating a confusing web of blames and half-truths that slowly guide the reader into a semblance of understanding of the many twisted motivations of the group.
Moriarty is known for her plot twists and dramatic revels but she takes it one step further with Big Little Lies, entangling many stories into one. Despite it’s outwardly fluffy plot (what could be more innocent than kindergarten children and their mothers?) the ferocity of the interactions between the characters results in an on-the-edge-of-your-seat feeling that will make Big Little Lies a quick, entertaining read. If you liked both Gone Girl and Jennifer Weiner’s chick lit masterpieces, you will love Moriarty.