The Perfect Girl is the kind of book that you can get lost in, a totally compelling read that urges you to read just a few more pages and I enjoyed every minute of the journey.
Musical prodigy Zoe Guerin’s mother Maria is found dead very close to the beginning of the book, soon after Zoe and her Stepbrother Marcus perform a duet at a church in Bristol to mark Zoe’s comeback after she was incarcerated for causing the death of three teenagers. Having served her time she has now moved well away from the scene of the crime to have her ‘second-chance life’, complete with a new baby sister.
As is common to all of these types of books you can barely manoeuvre between the various issues being tossed from the pages; this one includes bullying, alcoholism, childlessness, hothousing and a whole host of others all of which muddy the waters as to who was twisted enough to kill Maria.
The story also uses multiple viewpoints to tell the sorry tale so we hear from Zoe, her aunt Tessa, Tessa’s husband Richard, Marcus and the attorney all have their say. This switching around is managed skilfully and I have a fondness for looking at an issue through differing eyes which in this instance really added to the tension and who and why the crime was committed. It is also an opportunity to give the reader the background, particularly that of the two sister’s Maria and Tessa although on reflection I’m not sure quite how convinced I was by Maria’s transformation from wild child to pushy parent but I always find with books like this, there is so much enjoyment to be gained from riding the waves it is best to suppress the little niggles that tend to crop up.
The one thing Gilly Macmillan has proved is that she really can tell a cracking good story. The plot was meticulously put together, the voices on the whole convincing and the tension created by a violent confrontation at the concert is successfully maintained throughout.
Lest you think this is a book that can only be read as a frivolous time waster albeit a pleasurable one, it isn’t. If you can stop yourself steaming through at a pace, there is a lot said about those people who mask their true selves to the world, how that works in reality and how manipulative adults cause confusion and distress to those around them. Some of the characters in this book may be at the extreme edge of that type but the truth told in The Perfect Girl is not something that just appears in fiction.
I for one thoroughly enjoyed the mix of characters, the underlying storyline of whether children who commit crime can ever put the past behind them to live a life that is some form of redemption is one that I find appealing and although I had worked out some of the ending, there was still enough to surprise me and I’m going to leave the review by saying it raises some difficult questions for the reader which may unsettle some. Although this book didn’t quite blow me away the way Burnt Paper Sky did, the same elements were present that made this an exceptionally good read.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to Little Brown Book Group (UK) who allowed me to read a copy of this book; this review is my unbiased thank you to them. The Perfect Girl will be published in paperback on 22 September 2016 but is currently available in eBook format and as a hardback book.