*This book was sent to me by the publisher The Viking Press in exchange for an honest review.
The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood is a difficult book to pin down. A thriller of sorts, the novel examines the lives of two child killers, grown but still dealing with the ramifications of one summer afternoon. Yet again, it’s a look at a seedy beachside town and the people who populate it, dependent on tourists for a living wage and struggling to carve out a life.
The story parallels the lives of Kirsty Lindsay, a freelance newspaper reporter, and Amber Gordon, a newly promoted cleaning supervisor for the Funnland amusement park in Whitmouth with the children they were, Jade Walker and Annabel Oldacre, convicted child killers. Bound by their secret but barred from ever seeing one another ever again, Kirsty and Amber are thrown together by circumstance when a string of murders brings Kirsty to Whitmouth to follow the story.
What follows is an acutely uncomfortable narrowing of situation as Kirsty and Amber come closer and closer to the revelation the reader knows they’re bound for – the exposure of their true identities and the scrutiny and repulsion that are sure to follow. While this may sound predictable, the resolution is anything but, yet the flashbacks to what happened with Bel and Jade that day years before weren’t exceptionally shocking, so I’m not altogether sure why they were parsed out between chapters for the duration of the book.
In terms of narrative voice, Marwood changed perspectives sometimes within paragraphs, making the telling difficult to follow, and particularly odd was the absence of examination of Jade and Bel’s seemingly abusive childhoods, different though they are. The lack of examination of upbringing and the nature of the crime itself felt shortsighted and obvious instead of nuanced and implied.
Though the book was a fast read and unsettling (which here isn’t a bad thing), it wasn’t the book I wanted to read. Instead, it seemed to skirt the issues I think would have made it a much more profound and introspective thriller.
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