Little Sister by Gytha Lodge

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on Little Sister, the latest book in the Jonah Sheens series by Gytha Lodge. A huge happy publication to the author as today is the books birthday. If you’d like to know more about the book from the author, Gytha Lodge will be talking all about Little Sister and her Jonah Sheens series at First Monday Crime on 9th May at 19:30 over on the FMC Facebook page. Gytha Lodge will be appearing with Lizzie Barber (Out Of Her Depth), Simone Buchholz (River Clyde) and Anna Mazzola (The Clockwork Girl), all moderated by equally talented William Ryan. Make sure to tune in.

My thanks to publisher Penguin for the advance copy for review. Here’s what the book is all about:

Source: Netgalley
Release Date: 28 April 2022
Publisher: Penguin

About the Book

Two sisters went missing. Only one of them came back…

Detective Jonah Sheens is enjoying a moment of peace and quiet, when a teenage girl wanders out of the wood.

She’s striking, with flame-red hair and a pale complexion.

She’s also covered in blood.

She insists she’s fine. It’s her sister he needs to worry about.

Jonah quickly discovers that Keely and her sister, Nina, disappeared from a children’s home a week ago. Now, Keely is here – but Nina’s still missing.

Keely likes to play games. She knows where her sister is – but before she tells, she wants Jonah’s full attention.

Is she killer, witness, or victim? And will Jonah find out what Keely’s hiding, in time to save Nina?

My Thoughts

Oh this book is clever. Very, very clever. It’s the kind of book where you can’t let your attention drift for even a minute. Amateur sleuths and puzzle lovers rejoice – this book will tap into every single part of your soul and draw you right in. This is no walk in the park kind of read, the themes within – child abuse and grooming – will make the blood boil. But the story is drawn together in such a way that whilst the story may seem abhorrent at first glance, it is not graphic or gratuitous. It is a ticking clock mystery of the first order, but with a magnificent twist. Talk about your sleight of hand … Pay attention all you budding Poirots and Marples, and settle down for one heck of a ride.

I came late to this series, but I’m so glad I found it, and if have to be honest – this is probably my favourite of them all. There is a familiarity to the format – the investigative team taking making up the focus of half of the narrative with the rest devoted to the focus of their investigation. In this case it is teenager, Keely who, along with her sister, has been missing for a week. Keely reappears in very … unusual circumstances and far from enjoying the quiet and relaxed afternoon at the pub with his family that Sheens had been expecting, he and his team find themselves in a race against time to find Keely’s younger sister Nina. There is a real sense of urgency about the whole case and yet Keely is in no rush to help. She has a story to tell and Sheens, his team, and us, are going to listen. And what a story it is. But is Keely the girl who ‘cried wolf’ once too often. or something far more disturbing in play?

This is such a fabulous book that really, less is more when it comes to the review. It has a perfectly balanced pace, the whole investigation taking place over a period of just two days, reflecting the sense of urgency within the team in their bid to find Nina. It is a blend of mystery, investigation and some extremely topical and relevant issues that have graced the headlines on far too many occasions. But Keely is far from being the most reliable narrator, dictating the pace of the interviews and giving nothing more than she chooses to the Detectives. She is like a conductor, directing her orchestra who can only play at the speed she dictates. There is a real feeling of being challenged, both the police and the readers, and maybe, on occasion, being found wanting. When they/we cotton on, things start to become very clear, but don’t think you know everything because you really won’t. It’s discombobulating, and complex and yet so utterly simple when you get to the root of it all, that it’s really quite brilliant. Yes, I found Keely hard to warm to because of her very detached and clinical nature, but I was completely glued to the page. I wanted to hear her story. Tragic and dark, it caused spikes of anger followed by floods of sympathy, but it was utterly compelling.

There are some really emotionally charged moments in the book, not just because of Keely’s story. Sheens’ life has altered dramatically since we last saw him, and a few home truths are spelt out during the investigation that force him to stop and confront the situation at home. Ben Lightman takes a step forward too, with the case hitting him harder than anyone perhaps imagines. Understandable when you look behind the truth of Keely’s little ‘game’ with the police. It hits home with them all, examining the very real issue of people never believing victims until it is too late. I loved seeing Juliette Hanson at the heart of this investigation too, with Domnall O’Malley on hand to provide some light amongst all the shade. They’re such a great team of Detectives, it makes it very easy to spend time with them all.

This is a story of manipulation, a game of smoke and mirrors where nothing and no-one can be trusted. An absolute humdinger of a story and an absolute must read. If you don’t finish this book with a smile on your face, you probably aren’t a fan of puzzles after all. Most definitely recommended, a one sitting read for me, and absolutely getting one of these.

About the Author

Gytha Lodge is a Sunday Times bestselling writer and multi-award-winning playwright who lives in Cambridge. After studying creative writing at UEA, she was shortlisted for the Yeovil Literary Prize and the Arts’ Council England fiction awards, and developed a large online following for her young adult and children’s writing, with over seven million reads accrued on platform Wattpad.

She Lies in Wait, her debut novel, was a Richard & Judy Book Club Pick. With nail-biting cases that hook you in, and heart that keeps you coming back for more, Lodge’s highly-acclaimed Jonah Sheens series – which also includes Watching from the Dark and Lie Beside Me – has kept readers gripped from beginning to end, and Lodge has been acclaimed as ‘a gifted writer’ by Daily Mail.

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