Are you looking for an addictive and twisty psychological thriller? Then I strongly recommend The Girl Next Door. I read the second half of it in one sitting! Unusually for any novel, I think this one improved the further I read. By the time I finished it, I was very impressed at how the author packed the story full of plausible twists and realistic characters. The ending completely surprised me.
The story is set in a small town, Ashdon, near Saffron Walden in Essex (I looked it up, and it’s a real place). It begins with a sixteen-year-old girl, Clare, found dead in a field. This causes turmoil in the formerly quiet town, with its affluent law-abiding community. The story is told through the narratives of Clare herself (in the hours before she was found), her next-door neighbour Jane and also DS Madeline Shaw who is on the case. I liked the fact that there are so many suspects; everyone seems to have secrets to hide and possible motives for harming Clare. This novel has everything you want in a psychological thriller – untrustworthy characters, domestic settings which make the events more frightening, a plot which keeps you guessing and plenty of drama.
I’m also pleased to report that there are no scenes of animal abuse or child abuse. There is a domestic abuse theme in some of the relationships, but the details are not overly graphic.
I had some very minor issues with the novel. I would have liked DS Madeline Shaw to be a more distinctive character and to know more of her back story. I also thought that some details of the dialogue weren’t realistic; for example, everyone says ‘I guess’, which is an American alternative to ‘I suppose’. Like many American phrases, it’s becoming a more popular expression in the UK, but I don’t think all the characters would’ve said it, especially the older and more conservative types. However, these are little details I picked up and didn’t affect my enjoyment of the novel. I now want to read Phoebe Morgan’s first book, The Doll House.
The Girl Next Door will be published on 21st February. Many thanks to the publisher HQ (HarperCollins UK) for the advance copy via NetGalley.