Review – The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood

By | July 5, 2014

One summer morning, three little girls meet for the first time. By the end of the day, two will be charged with murder.

Twenty-five years later, journalist Kirsty Lindsay is reporting on a series of sickening attacks on young female tourists in a seaside town when her investigation leads her to interview funfair cleaner Amber Gordon. For Kirsty and Amber, it’s the first time they’ve seen each other since that dark day when they were just children. But with new lives – and families – to protect, will they really be able to keep their wicked secret hidden?

Is there a downside to writing a book blog? Sitting here, surrounded by wonderful books that I desperately want to read and tell everyone about, I’ve only been able to identify one little thing – I rarely have time to catch up on books that I really want to read, as they keep getting overtaken by the new and exciting ones. So, just this once, I decided to indulge myself – I’ve been aware of the immense buzz around The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood since it was published in 2012, and decided I really wanted to read it. Yes, I even bought it myself. And I’m so glad I did. 

This was a really gripping and fascinating read.  As always when reviewing thrillers, it would be wrong of me to tell too much of the story.  In brief, Bel and Jade were convicted for murder twenty-five years earlier, and are now living with new identities as Amber and Kirsty. One of the conditions of their release is that they must never contact each other, but their paths unexpectedly cross again when Kirsty, now a successful journalist, covers a story at Amber’s place of work in the run-down seaside town of Whitmouth. 

The book is full of weighty moral questions – nature and nurture, the age of responsibility for your actions, the rights of convicted child murderers to resume their lives, media responsibility, personal responsibility – and you inevitably reflect on recent news stories that brought the meatier issues to public attention.  But as well as that, this book is an absolutely gripping read – impossible to put down, a book you’ll think about constantly when you’re not reading it, and for a long time after you’ve finished.  The characters – even the minor ones, like the night shift workers – are drawn in wonderful detail, and you enter their murky world entirely. The setting is vividly drawn – we all know places like Whitmouth, with its brash seafront lights and dark deserted alleys behind.  The whole book is superbly dark and gritty – the seediness and sleaziness of it all made me think of the books of Cathi Unsworth – and thoroughly absorbing.  The pacing of it all is quite perfect, building to an explosive and unexpected climax. 

I absolutely loved it – psychological thriller writing at its very best, a book that you’ll have difficulty putting down, and which really makes you think as you feverishly turn the pages.  I’m dying to see what Alex Marwood does next – and I’m delighted to report that I already have a copy of her next book, The Killer Next Door (paperback published by Sphere on 19 June) so I won’t have long to wait…

Raised by wolves, Alex Marwood passed her formative years in the lands beyond the Arctic circle, developing pack skills, excellent night vision and an ability to survive on raw protein. Ideally equipped for a life on Fleet Street, she then became a journalist.

Her first novel, The Wicked Girls, was published by Sphere, in 2012, and achieved widespread acclaim and word-of-mouth bestsellerdom. In 2013 it was shortlisted for an ITW award, and included in Stephen King’s Ten Best Books of the Year list. It was published by Penguin in the US in 2013, and is shortlisted for an Edgar Allen Poe award.

Alex herself is a figment of the imagination of the novelist and sometime journalist Serena Mackesy. If you’re interested in a more truthful biography, an FAQ and her other books, do visit her website.