Vanessa Lillie is wasting no time in making a name for herself in the crime fiction community. She is active on the social media aspects of the business, attends events for and with our tribe, and her debut novel, Little Voices, from Thomas & Mercer was chosen for a coveted spot on Amazon’s First Reads program. All of this to say, if Vanessa Lillie is not on your radar yet, she certainly should be.
Suspense writers are always looking for new ways to “torment” their characters in order to captivate readers. Given that it is hardly an uncommon occurrence, postpartum depression is something domestic suspense authors have been incorporating into their work for years now. However, because this mood disorder can manifest in varying ways for different individuals, there are still angles for authors to explore using this mental disorder – something Vanessa Lillie so expertly proves by placing postpartum psychosis front and center in her plot for Little Voices.
Little Voices opens with an extremely well done scene in which Devon Burges goes into premature labor. The heart rate of every reader will increase as the realization of how dangerous this situation is for both mother and child becomes evident. Somehow, Vanessa Lillie manages to make it feel like this is actually happening in front of the reader, rather than just words on the printed page. But there is also vital information – some subtle, some more obvious – important to developments later in the novel that are embedded within this stressful scene. It is one hell of an opening, instantly iconic and simply unforgettable.
The novel then picks up several months later with Devon home with her baby girl, Ester. The reader finds out more about the death of Devon’s friend Belina (something she first hears about on a radio broadcast while in the emergency room), who was a nanny for another family the Burges’ are friends with. When the husband in that family is accused of being involved in Belina’s death, Devon feels that she has to step up and investigate what really happened. Devon’s background in law, her families involvement with politics – Devon’s husband Jack is the Chief of Staff to the Mayor and Devon has dealings with the financial/political side of things – and the personal relationships between the primary parties all blend together to make for an excellent reading experience.
In addition to telling a damn good story, Vanessa Lillie should be commended for documenting the experience of new motherhood in a way that all readers can understand, relate to, and empathize with. The little voice in Devon’s head is something that all of us have experienced. Yes, Devon’s is a bit more insistent and vicious, but everyone can understand the self-doubt inherent in doing something new and fearing that every choice is the wrong one.
While it may be a cliché, if ever it were appropriate to label a novel as a roller-coaster ride from start to finish, Vanessa Lillie’s Little Voices would be a prime example. There is a quick and steady climb to a significant peak, followed by a swift race to the conclusion – highlighted by quick turns that change perspective constantly, stomach-dropping surprises that occasionally turn things completely upside-down, multiple level changes that totally make the past, present, and future equally discombobulating, and then just when you think you have reached the end, a few last minute bumps along the track designed to keep everyone on edge. With Little Voices as a debut, it is exciting to think about what Vanessa Lillie is going to provide readers with next. This is a career that is about to take off.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.