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Book review: <i>The Wicked Girls</i> by Alex Marwood

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the cover of the book

In the tiny seaside town of Whitmouth, girls are being strangled. There's a stalker on the loose, and there are two women on the outskirts of the investigation who have a big secret to keep.

The story

Two little girls, one rich, one poor, commit a horrific crime together. The kind of crime that drives a community apart, the kind where the law doesn't come close to the lustful justice of the mob. Human nature is ugly, and self righteousness just makes it uglier. The two little girls are divided, sent to different detention facilities, and after their release check in monthly and promise, under threat of being sent back to prison, never to have any contact with each other.

Amber Gordon has struggled to get where she is. On the management team of the cleaning crew at Funnland, she is responsible for keeping the amusement park at Whitmouth clean for the punters. Life hasn't been kind to her, she's struggled to overcome all manner of financial and emotional adversity. But she owns her own little place, has a handsome common-law husband, and two little dogs who she smothers with love. It's not much, but it's hers. And she's always aware of being kind to people, how important it is. It's the little things.

Kirsty Lindsay is a freelance journalist with a two kids and an out of work husband, who she loves just as passionately as ever. Well educated and in the middle classes, they muddle through. When she's sent to Whitmouth to cover the murders, her past doesn't stay dead.

The style

I found this book disturbing. In a really well considered, well written way, but disturbing none the less. It's masterfully put together, building suspense between two narratives; the present, murders in Whitmouth written chronologically, and the past, the murder of a little girl, written in bits and pieces so the reader doesn't piece together how the little girl actually died until the end of the story. The Wicked Girls is more than your average crime thriller, it's a psychological delve into stalkers, murderers, child murders, and society – people who knee-jerk, people who reach of the nearest pitchfork without thinking. The writing is so reasonable, and at the same time so compassionate, it's a story that's terribly emotionally draining. There were bits towards the end where I had to stop reading to have a little think about how I was feeling, and sort out my emotional reaction before I continued. The murder of children by other children – the James Bulger case being an excellent example – always causes a pretty devastating social response. And I could remember everything about James Bulger and the huge debate it caused in reading this book.

If you're thinking it sound like it isn't for you, don't! The story is so well constructed, the characters so well rounded, and the issues so pertinent that it would be a shame NOT to read it. And you know what? People SHOULD be thinking about this issue. They SHOULD be thinking about our society, the way we deal with crime, the way we process emotionally charged issues. The way we knee-jerk and call for mob justice, and the way the media deals with these issues as well. What I'm trying to say is, this is a really, really good book for a multitude of reasons above and beyond the fact that it's a good ole suspense novel. To phrase that another way, READ IT READ IT NOW.

Who is this book for?

Want to be suckered in to thinking about a really emotive social issue without even realising until it's too late?

Actually, scrap that. I think this book should be read, not only because it's fantastic entertainment and a great read (and a quick read), but also because it DOES make the reader think about certain aspects of our society which aren't comfortable but have been, and still are, pervading our collective. You know how in the above section I shouted READ IT, READ IT NOW? Well I meant that.

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I don't think I've ever read anything that manages to tackle the issues and provide such great entertainment to the extent of this novel before. Which is probably a good thing, because it made me feel uncomfortable to the point where I don't want to read it again. I do hope, however, that there are more authors out there writing this kind of thing.

In short

Title: The Wicked Girls
Author: Alex Marwood
Publisher: Penguin Books
ISBN: 978-0143123866
Year published: 2013
Pages: 384
Genre(s): Crime fiction
Review Type: