I didn’t finish reading this one, but I have things I need to get off my chest about it.
One fateful summer morning in 1986, two 11-year-old girls meet for the first time and by the end of the day are charged with murder.
Twenty-five years later, journalist Kirsty Lindsay is reporting on a series of 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 secret hidden?
The Wicked Girls is the story of Kirsty and Amber, who are bound together by a horrific event in their childhood, but now lead two very different lives. They’re thrown together when Kirsty comes to town to write about a series of deaths of young women, the latest being at the fair where Amber works.
That is the underlying thriller part of the book, and looking at the blurb now, I think the reason I didn’t finish reading this is my own fault.
When I started reading this book, I assumed that the story would be one of Kirsty and Amber reconnecting and being drawn to the case of the murdered women, with the pasts providing the back drop for their current situation.
What the blurb actually says, is that it’s a character exploration of two very different women, who reconnect after decades apart. Kirsty and Amber are in fact Belle and Jade, who were imprisoned for murder at age 11.
Years later under new identities they recognise each other in the most random of situations and… really, that’s where I stopped reading. Here’s why:
This is a book in which I expected a thriller — the murdered girls and that case to have some sort of presence in Amber and Kirsty’s storylines — otherwise, what’s the point?
Perhaps it does later on, but I got through enough of the book that there wasn’t enough of the current mystery to keep me reading.
Second, this is a book about Kirsty and Amber — their lives took very different paths, but in the end they’re at the same place: forever hiding and not wanting to stand out for fear of being recognised.
Kirsty is saddled with an asshole of a husband, who is marginally redeemed by moments in which he seems to be a human and realises she has a life and exists. Ungrateful, shitty children who are I suppose just being teenagers, but still.
But the combination of these two sets of self-absorbed characters who don’t actually see Kirsty to any extent was just the beginning of this book turning me off.
Amber is the common-law wife of another asshole who emotionally and physically abuses her, and she knows what he’s doing is wrong, she knows she deserves better, but she hasn’t left him.
While there’s something to be said for the effect of abuse on women and how they think in terms of Amber, with both these characters it’s like they’re forever atoning for their pasts as 11 year olds, even if they don’t want to admit it.
Now, I am not saying everything has to be coming up roses, but there has to be something to keep me reading.
This book is relentlessly dark and depressing in that there is nothing redeeming anywhere I looked, with any character. You have to be willing to dive down a dark rabbit hole, and stay there until the bitter end.
And I honestly couldn’t do it.
I don’t want to be this depressed and dark of mind and that’s what this book made me feel — like something dark had settled over me, and I couldn’t shake it off.
However, I do want to add that Stephen King reviewed this on Goodreads and loved it, and there are twists to be had, but I didn’t read far enough to reach them, and I don’t actually mind. The characterisation is superb, as much as I didn’t like any character, but I understood that not everything has to be liked in a book like this. Had the case in Amber’s home town actually continued and been part of the narrative I might have continued reading.
I understand that thrillers need to be dark, it’s part of the genre — but I do need to feel something for the characters other than not wanting to drown in their lives and darkness and depression while reading the book.
I read books to escape, to yes, want the happily ever after and the bad guys caught. And I do understand that sometimes neither is going to happen, but there has to be something for me to latch on to, something that keeps me going — and I couldn’t find it in this one.