Reviewed

“Pretty Ugly Lies” by Pamela Crane

haven’t read Big Little Lies or seen the show but it’s hard not to have a general sense of what that story is and I think it’s pretty clear that Pamela Crane’s Pretty Ugly Lies is meant to read and liked by the same people who flock to that.

This is an absolutely fine thing because if you like what I understand that story is, if you like psychological thrillers based on the friendships of women, and if you don’t mind a little murder and adultery, you will absolutely want to read this book. It’s a quick read, it’s a pretty good read, and I had fun reading it.

(things after this point are details of the book so… reader beware, a spoiler might slip out)

It starts with a woman sitting next in a pool of her husband’s blood as she holds his cold, dead hand and thinks of how the blood of her children is on her hands too. And then things escalate very quickly.

It does go fast and, to be honest, I wanted it to be longer. The tagline on the cover is “Four Lives. Four Lies. One Killer Among Them.” and, I’m not going to lie, that’s a lot to pack into just over 200 pages.

June, Jo, Shayla, and Ellie are the four friends. They have four husbands – Mike, Jay, Trent, and Denny. There are… eleven kids among them, I think. But I only remembered this near the end of the book, and a lot of time early on was spent thinking “wait, who is married to Denny???” Basically, I wish I couldn’t known these women better, slower.

They all live on Oleander Way in North Carolina. June and Ellie have been friends since high school. I think Jo and Shayla are friends, or maybe just acquaintances? The four don’t all know each other more than polite neighborly interactions.

But the four all have secrets.

Hidden love for a friend, adultery, trying to poison her cheating husband with oleander, and doubts about her marriage that come back to haunt her (I mixed up the order so it does not at all match the way I listed the friends, you’re welcome).

These things make for an interesting story, one I’d have loved to read if it was twice as long – but this isn’t my usual genre so maybe these stories do keep it short. Given the brevity, it was hard to feel attached to any one woman or the other, hard to root for them to overcome their secrets and their lies.

That is not to say that things don’t reach a satisfying conclusion because they absolutely do.

(I received a copy of Pretty Ugly Lies from NetGalley & Bloodhound Books in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.)

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