Tall Poppy Review: Psycho Dysfunction in “Little Black Lies”

in Thrillers by

A funny thing happened after I read Little Black Lies (Grand Central Publishing). 

I met Sandra Block on Twitter soon after reading the book. I remember writing in 140 characters or less: I loved Little Black Lies. You should be a Tall Poppy Writer. I want to be your friend.

I’m not sure why I wanted to befriend a woman who can write psychological dysfunction so well, but there are subtle humor and great depth in Sandra Block’s writing. In person, she is one of the funniest, kindest and smartest people I have ever met.

Anyway, onto the book.

Little Black Lies is the first of the Zoe Goldman trilogy. The book centers on Dr. Zoe Goldman, a psychiatric resident in training dedicated to helping troubled patients. However, she has plenty of of her own baggage, including her struggle with ADHD. Zoe is searching for the truth about her birth mother who died in a house fire which she survived. With only vague memories about that night, Zoe still suffers from nightmares over it. Her adoptive mother has always been tight-lipped about Zoe’s past. But now that she is declining with dementia, Zoe becomes obsessed with finding out more. But the more she searches, the murkier the truth is. And as Zoe digs deeper, she realizes that the danger is closer than she thinks. She has no choice but to face what terrifies her the most – that night. Because what she can’t remember just might kill her.

Block is a practicing neurologist, which may explain why the medical setting feels so solid and real. And more than a psychological thriller, in some ways, Little Black Lies is a neurological thriller – with memory as a main character. Zoe searches her own memory for her past, while her adoptive mother fades with dementia. But, what does her adoptive mother really remember? What are her nightmares trying to tell her? The book is steeped in Freud, and his theories of the subconscious. You follow Zoe into the deepest recesses of her mind, and find it a dangerous place to be. Crawling further and further into the deep dank basement of her memory, you finally run blindly into the final climactic twist. And believe me, you will not see it coming.

Zoe Goldman is an unforgettable character. Her wry humor will have you guiltily laughing at things you probably shouldn’t be. She is vulnerable, brilliant and of course…troubled. I saw her; I recognized her. Her frailty, her flaws, her effort. We are all flawed, but trying. As the last line of the book states: “the truth is, we are all a little crazy.”

Maybe that’s why I wrote to Sandra Block, saying I wanted to be her friend.

Because I really wanted to be Zoe’s friend.

Little Black Lies is now available to purchase.

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ABOUT SANDRA BLOCK: 

Sandra A. Block graduated from college at Harvard, then returned to her native land of Buffalo, New York, for medical training and never left. She is a practicing neurologist and proud Sabres fan, and lives at home with her husband, two children, and impetuous yellow lab Delilah. She has been published in both medical and poetry journals.

She is the author the Zoe Goldman series of books, Little Black Lies,  The Girl Without a Name, and The Secret Room.

Her newest book, What Happened That Night is now available to purchase.

Ann Garvin, Ph.D. is the USA Today Bestselling author of I Like You Just Fine When You're Not Around (Simon and Schuster), The Dog Year, and On Maggie's Watch (Penguin Random House). Her fiction and essays marry humor, psychology and just the right amount of funny and sad. She is a professor at University of Wisconsin at Whitewater and has taught writing at the University of Wisconsin Madison - extension and Southern New Hampshire University. She teaches in the Master of Fine Arts program at University of Miami at Ohio and runs The Fifth Semester an incubator for new writers finding their way to publication. She is the founder of The Tall Poppy Writers