If you read a story in the newspaper about a murdered body being found in the House of Mirrors in an amusement park by a cleaner, what runs through your mind?Â For that is how Alex Marwood’s novel, The Wicked Girls, opens. Amber Gordon is the cleaner at Whitmouth’s Funnland amusement park, and she finds a dead girl in a room that nobody else should be able to enter other than her (apart from paying customers). What would you think about the cleaner, the amusement park, the town, the victim. What’s more, do you spare a thought for the journalists who have to follow stories like these and ferret out hidden facts for the readers?
This is Alex Marwood’s debut and she has written a spooky, disturbing thriller. Because Amber is not merely a cleaner, she has a dark past that she has desperately, completely, hidden from her co-workers and her partner Vic Cantrell. A past which Amber would quite happily see remain buried, but which is unerringly rising to the surface with the murder that she stumbles on. And the one other person who knows her secret, who she hasn’t seen for twenty-five years, is Kirsty, a crime journalist who gets assigned to this town, this murder, this investigation.
Twenty-five years before the novel opens, when Amber and Kirsty were just girls in a normal town in England, they casually met one day in the local shop. But the outcome of their meeting was nothing ordinary. Their past is told in flashbacks and is in fact, truly horrifying. As girls, little more than children themselves, they were left in sole care of a toddler on a hot summer’s day, and ill-equipped as they were to make decisions for themselves let alone a dependent three-year-old, their situation goes from bad to awful fairly quickly.
But all that is in the past, and Amber and Kirsty now spend every moment of their lives keeping it quiet. However the town of Whitmouth is seemingly the home of a serial killer who is targetting vulnerable young women – and leaving them out for Amber to find. As journalists and murders converge on the town, it is surely only a matter of time before Amber’s secret is exposed – and how can she expect to bury it again after all this time?
This book is an inspired thriller, completely out of the ordinary, and is beyond a page-turner, it is irresistible.
Available now: Hachette RRP$29.99