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?

Marwood has constructed a crime thriller with obvious allusions to the lives of other well documented child murders with the perpetrators being children themselves and how they assimilate back into society on release. Choosing her protagonists to be two women puts a neat twist onto the whole criminal responsibility of children as most of the well known cases tend to centre on male perpetrators. This, I found, was the most well-executed aspect of the book as the reader’s sympathies shift and sway as more of the original crime unfolds throughout the book as Kirsty and Amber find themselves in grudging contact with each other as a serial murder infiltrates a small seaside town where Amber lives, and where Kirsty as a journalist goes to report on the events. The whole serial murder storyline I did find a little forced although it did serve as a backdrop, although unconvincing, to play out Kirsty and Amber’s stories and I did find the final denouement a little far-fetched with just one too many unbelievable coincidences. I appreciate that Marwood wanted to capture the small-town mentality of this insular seaside town but thought it would be more feasible that a figure that was pillioried as much as Amber would maybe have ‘lost’ herself better in a big city and this would have made the whole serial-killer aspect of the story, in terms of setting, a little more believable and I was surprised that she had remained undetected for as long as she had. Having said that I would recommend this book for the depth of humanity Marwood brings to her protagonists as she reveals little by little the tragic events of their youth and how this markedly affects them in their very different upbringings post-release and this alone makes ‘The Wicked Girls’ an interesting read and a great choice for bookgroups as there are many talking points and potential areas of conflict ripe for discussion…

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