The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood (Penguin trade paperback, 30 July 2013.).
Reviewed by Marlyn Beebe.
The book opens with a scene set in 1986. A girl describes being in what appears to be a prison cell. She describes herself as "small and alone and scared and confused", and mentions hearing someone named Bel screaming and crying for her mother. At the end of this short prologue, we learn that Jade and Bel have killed someone named Chloe, and that there appears to be no doubt in anyone's mind about this.
Fast forward to the present day.
Amber Gordon, who works in the custodial department of an amusement park called Funnland, stumbles across the dead body of a young woman in the hall of mirrors, not the first that season in the small English seaside town of Whitmouth. Murmurs about serial killers have already been circulating.
Kirsty Lindsay is a freelance journalist who lives in Farnham, with her unemployed husband Jim and their two children. She doesn't want to take the story about the Whitmouth murders, but since Jim hasn't been able to find a new job, she feels she has no choice.
It soon becomes apparent that Amber and Kirsty were once Jade and Bel, though it takes some time before we learn which was which. The story of how each got to where she is is told with flashbacks to 1986, the events of the present, and their own internal dialogues.
The tale is dark and disturbing, but at the same time compelling. I had to take a break every few chapters, but there was no question that I would keep reading to the [very unexpected] ending.
Alex Marwood is a pseudonym of a successful British journalist, and The Wicked Girls is her debut thriller, although she has published four other novels under the pseudonym Serena Mackesy.
FTC Full Disclosure: Many thanks to The Penguin Group for the Advance Reading Copy.