Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

'Chick lit' and 'beach reads' are both terms I've seen used to describe Liane Moriarty's fiction, and I really wish people would just stop, because both descriptions are reductive nonsense that would never be applied to fiction written by men. Moriarty writes women's fiction with primarily female lead characters and her books are gripping, smart and funny.

Big Little Lies is easy to read and hard to put down. It's the story of three women: Madeleine, Jane and Celeste. All three women have children who are starting infant school in Pirriwee, a middle-class coastal town in New South Wales, Australia. Jane is new to Pirriwee and keen that her son, Ziggy, fits in, so when he's accused of attacking another child on his school orientation day, Jane is horrified - while also convinced that he isn't guilty. Madeleine and Celeste stick by Jane, while the other parents give her a wide berth. At the start of the book, we're told that something terrible has happened at the school's charity quiz night - but what, exactly? And who was responsible?

The mystery at the heart of Big Little Lies is cleverly constructed and full of small twists and reveals that keep up the intrigue from the first page to the last, but it's the characters who really make this book. All three of them felt absolutely like real people to me - as did the supporting cast. I found myself rooting so strongly for Madeleine, Jane and Celeste that I was genuinely quite furious at anyone who wronged them. It's rare that a mystery novel - and one which does take some dark turns at times - looks at female friendships with a genuine warmth, but the relationship between the three women, all of whom have their secrets, gives this book a foundation much more solid than that of many domestic thrillers.

Big Little Lies is a neatly resolved page-turner full of shocks, certainly, and it has a strong satirical bent, but it also deals with some deeply serious issues affecting women and does so in a frank, uncompromising way. There are some who would describe this book as a guilty pleasure, but they'd be wrong. Don't feel guilty. Just read and enjoy.