From the Booking Desk:
Yesterday, BOLOBooks featured an interview with Alex Marwood about her writing process and her newest book, The Wicked Girls; today we are happy to present our review of the novel.
Typically, if readers are told that a novel features a serial killer preying on women at an amusement park, they will expect that to be the focus of the book. In the case of Alex Marwood’s The Wicked Girls, however, this is only a small plot point in a much larger storyline. What Marwood actually presents is a meditation on the long-lasting effects of bad decisions within a society that thrives by placing blame and casting shame.
The bulk of The Wicked Girls is a present day narrative set in and around the Funnland Amusement Park located in the United Kingdom; but the backbone of the story actually begins earlier, back in 1986. Interspersed throughout the contemporary storyline, Marwood tells the tale of two pre-teen girls who are accused, tried and convicted of killing another smaller child. These two girls, Annabel – Bel for short – and Jade have only just met on the day their lives are forever changed. Placed in juvenile jail facilities, they are forbidden from seeing each other again upon their release.
This is where our main story begins. Both girls have been given new identities and have started life anew as Amber Gordon and Kirsty Lindsay. Amber now works a janitorial job afterhours at the Funnland Park. Her common-law husband Vic also works at the amusement park, so their finances are not exactly making life easy for them. When Amber stumbles upon a dead body in the Hall of Mirrors, she immediately fears that she will be blamed. The discovery of a second body escalates the news story to national interest and it isn’t long before Amber is recognized as a notorious child-murderer.
Meanwhile, Jade is living a comfortable life as Kirsty Lindsay, a journalist with a happy marriage, thriving children and blossoming career. It will come as no surprise that Kirsty is quickly assigned to the serial killer story at Funnland Amusement Park, thereby facilitating the meeting of these two childhood companions. Alex Marwood highlights the diametrically opposed lifestyles of these two women who have traveled the same rough road in their youth to full effect.
What follows is a tabloid feeding frenzy, with everyone wanting to expose Amber for her villainous behavior rather than presenting her tale as a story of overcoming the sins of our past. This “celebrity of evil” mentality is not something that Kirsty can abide, but is she willing to step up and expose your true identity to the vicious public?
Alex Marwood has created a structurally complex novel, in which the events of 1986 slowly unravel in flashbacks, while the present day story twists and winds its way through various viewpoints. Both of these main characters are well-developed and readers will find that they can feel empathy for both of them. Facing the ramifications of bad decisions is something that everyone can relate to and Alex Marwood uses this to induce sympathy, all the while obscuring the malevolent actions happening on the outskirts of the story.
In The Wicked Girls, Alex Marwood does not present any easy answers, but she does inspire deeper contemplation of larger topics such as blame, guilt, forgiveness and rehabilitation. By wrapping all of this into a page-turning thriller, she has created one of the “must read” novels of the season.
Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.