Little Black Lies is a debut novel by Sandra Block, a practicing neurologist. It's set in the Buffalo, New York area and it fits in very well with my 'read cold books in summer' quest. I liked it very much.
Zoe Goldman is a doctor doing her residency in psychiatry in Buffalo. She is a very interesting character. She's adopted and has been told that her birth mother, her adopted mother's friend, died in a fire when Zoe was 4. She has scars on her palms from that event, but minimal memories. She has a younger brother, Scotty, that she shares a home with. Their mother has early onset dementia of some kind, possibly Alzheimer's, and they are losing her bit by bit. Zoe has an extremely busy life with her residency, being on call, visiting her mother, and dealing with her own ADHD issues. And as her adopted mother slips farther and farther away from reality, Zoe finds herself wanting to know more about her birth mother before it's too late.
This story takes place over a 4 month fall/winter period. We see the patients that come in and out of Zoe's life on the psychiatric ward. We meet her brother and mother and also join her on her visits to her own therapist. We're with Zoe as she begins to have nightmares again, which she hasn't done for many years. They all involve her birth mother and a dark night where she is hiding from someone who is calling her name. The dreams become a bit clearer, but Zoe's memory is still not cooperating. Meanwhile, she feels a sense of urgency to discover more about the tragic events that led to her birth mother's death. Has she been told the truth? Why has her new patient, a woman who murdered someone at 14, appeared suddenly in her dreams? Why can't she remember???
Sandra Block is a doctor herself and so her setting and details all seemed very authentic to me. The memory care that Zoe's mother experienced was accurate, as far as my own experience with my parents went. I felt Zoe's frustration in needing information from her mother, but knowing that she likely would never get all the facts. I also felt her love as well. Dealing with a family member that has dementia is awful, sometimes funny, and has small rewards and victories. The reader could also feel the impulsive thought process that the protagonist went through as she dealt with her own ADHD. It was a little anxiety inducing to me. I kept wanting to tell her to settle down, but I guess that's not possible and kind of the point.
And then there was a sense of menace that slowly began to creep in. As Zoe realizes that there is more to the story of her adoption and her past, the reader's heart begins to beat faster. You were never quite sure what she would find out and where the creepiness was coming from. Well, actually, I had a pretty good idea, but it was just a guess.
I'm happy to see that there will be another book in the fall that features Dr. Zoe Goldman and her friends and family. It's called The Girl Without A Name and I'm definitely looking forward to it. I give Little Black Lies two thumbs up.