"The Girls Next Door" Mel Sherratt
This is the first Mel Sherratt I have read - I know, I know, where have I been!! Well, it may have been my first but it won't be my last! I really enjoyed this quick, gritty and relevant crime thriller.
The story is about Deanna Barker who is brutally stabbed one evening. Six months later and a series of vicious assaults on local teenagers are carried out, disturbing the community of Stockleigh. It is up to Detective Eden Berrisford to decide if this is revenge for Deanna's death and try to catch the person behind the attacks, a job which becomes even more pressurised when her niece is one of the victims......
The book launches straight in with the upsetting scene of Deanna's death. Sherratt's writing immediately establishing setting, location and characters with a very self assured and confident voice. The scene, although disturbing, is definitely very believable and realistic. She has captured the mood, dialogue and relationships between teenagers with conviction and I was drawn into the novel quickly.
The chapters are short and alternate between various different characters. Although this did require a little more concentration at times to keep up with the various different narratives, it also ensured a good pace and I whizzed through the chapters like a high speed police car blue racing towards a crime scene.
I liked the large cast of characters. It gave Sherratt an opportunity to explore the themes and ideas in the story more fully and from various different angles which helped reflect the complexity of the situations. The only chapters that I felt occasionally broke my flow were those with Katie's letters. However, ironically, they were some of my most favourite sections as they were just so painfully sad. Sherratt captures the thoughts of a young, vulnerable girl in such a brutally honest voice it added great tension and poignancy to the plot.
The thing that interested me most was that although this book is clearly plot driven and essentially a great crime thriller about murder and kidnapping, it is also very character driven. There are lots of observations and insights about human nature. Although some of the characters are not always likeable, or behaving in a way that society can accept, Sherratt is exploring the effects of actions and the consequences or repercussions of things. The wide cast of characters helps her to explore the knock on effect of the events and how whole families cope with what has happened to them or around them. I was surprised when the various threads were all tied up before the ending of the book but then, Sherratt isn't just interested in solving the crime. The final pages aren't full of complex twists and revelations but more muddied with emotional reflection as the characters respond to the story's conclusions.
There are many characters with which to sympathise - and they're not always the ones you typically imagine them to be. Sherratt has written a disturbing and thought provoking thriller which tackles real life issues with conviction and authenticity.
This will surely be a hit amongst readers who enjoy a satisfying police procedural crime story.
For more reviews and recommendations please follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk)