A Virtuous Lie, Christina O'Reilly

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

The third novel featuring DSS Archie Baldrick and DC Ben Travers, A VIRTUOUS LIE follows on from INTO THE VOID and RETRIBUTION. This is a series that might be best read in order, which shouldn't be a trial for anyone new to it - the first two are tightly plotted, engaging and only 160 and 180ish pages long.

One of the main reasons for reading the series from the start is that Baldrick and Travers do have some major things going on in their personal lives, and whilst this outing does go back through their histories, and experiences, RETRIBUTION is possibly the entry that reveals most of the personal. In A VIRTUOUS LIE though, the series is continuing to improve as a complex and nicely twisty plot goes hand in hand with character and personal development. 

Of course, whenever the plot involves the death of a child, some readers will be challenged by the idea. This is gently handled, and there is quite a revelation to be found after discovering the identity of the child whose body is found in dense bushland, and the realisation that he was alive for a few years after initially being reported missing. So this enquiry is an abduction as well as a murder enquiry.

Elegantly handled, O'Reilly is the sort of author that takes the reader into the story with her, there's no repetition or labouring of points made, and her characters are affected by, react and experience the same range of emotions that the reader will be experiencing. Baldrick and Travers are empathetic, engaged, solid and cautious investigators, and between them they don't miss a trick. The motivations, particularly in this novel, are not all rooted in evil as well - it's often about the mistakes that people make, and the harm that occurs accidentally.

An interesting series, three books in, you'd have to say this sits well within the sub-sub-genre of police procedurals with a heart. It's extremely readable, very engaging and it's been great to get a chance to start out at the beginning of something with such potential.


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Hidden in the dense bush of the Manawatu, a tiny skeleton lies overgrown with weeds. DSS Archie Baldrick and DC Ben Travers discover that the victim is a young child who went missing from a rural skate park twenty years earlier. Who could possibly have abducted Lukas Branson and kept him hidden for over two years? The detectives have their hands full following up old leads - and opening up old wounds. Then there is a murder in the city centre and suddenly their investigations become doubly complicated ...

Review A Virtuous Lie, Christina O'Reilly
Karen Chisholm
Thursday, August 10, 2023

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