Monday, October 10, 2016
Tonight Zoe is giving a recital that Maria has been planning for months. It needs to be the performance of her life. But instead, by the end of the evening, Maria is dead.
In the aftermath, everyone—police, family, Zoe's former solicitor, and Zoe herself—tries to piece together what happened. But as Zoe knows all too well, the truth is rarely straightforward, and the closer we are to someone, the less we may see.
Unfolding over a span of twenty-four hours through three compelling narratives, The Perfect Girl is gripping, surprising, and emotionally complex—a richly layered look at loyalty, second chances, and the way secrets unravel us all. -- William Morrow
Tomorrow evening, my book club meets to discuss THE PERFECT GIRL by Gilly Macmillan. Rather than wait until after our meeting to share my thoughts about this novel, I thought I'd go ahead and feature it as this week's Mystery Monday book. Of course, I will give a brief recap of our meeting and also announce our November pick on Wednesday.
THE PERFECT GIRL was a book that was definitely on my radar since first hearing about it at the Harper Collins' Spring Preview; however, I wasn't entirely sure it would make a good book club selection. However, I think after everyone saw the promising premise (say that three times quickly!), it became a fairly obvious choice.
THE PERFECT GIRL stars Zoe Maisey, a seventeen year old piano prodigy who also happens to have a genius IQ. However, Zoe has a troubled past. Three years ago, she was driving a car while intoxicated and was deemed responsible for the deaths of three of her classmates. She was sentenced to a juvenile detention center and served her time. Her mother, Maria, decided that it was best for them to get a fresh start... even if that meant not telling her new husband about Zoe's past.
The novel begins with Zoe and her step-brother Lucas playing a piano recital. In walks the father of one of the girls who died in the accident. He disrupts the entire performance and Zoe quickly leaves with her mother. Her stepfather and brother stay and finish the concert, but they arrive back home with quite a few questions. Maria is forced to come clean about Zoe and the accident, and tensions are definitely high.
Zoe decides to go to bed with her baby sister so Maria and her husband can talk. A few hours later, she hears screaming. She rushes downstairs and outside to discover that her mother is dead... and it appears to be a murder. Zoe immediately contacts her old attorney (and the man who just happens to be having an affair with her married aunt) for help. Nothing makes much sense to the family members or the police, and suspicions are running high.
Zoe realizes that she and her mother weren't the only ones keeping secrets in their family. In fact, there are quite a few secrets between the characters in this novel. As Zoe learns the truth behind her mother's death, she also knows that the truth isn't always the answer....and sometimes, it's better to take things into your own hands.
I really enjoyed THE PERFECT GIRL. It wasn't really a surprise given the author's success in her last novel WHAT SHE KNEW -- you can read my review here. Once again, I was extremely impressed with the author's ability to create interesting characters as well as a well-plotted mystery. I actually found myself glued to this novel and I think I read it in a day -- it was that good!
One thing I appreciated about THE PERFECT GIRL was the character development. Of course, Zoe was the "star" of the story and my heart definitely went out to her. She was extremely complex given her musical abilities and her intelligence, but she also was rather immature when it came to relationships (not entirely a surprise!) In addition, Zoe had suffered quite a deal in her seventeen years with her guilt from the accident as well as the unfair trial (or at least that was her side of the story!) And don't even get me started on some of her experiences while in detention. It was interesting, though. Part of me really liked her and rooted for her, but there was another part of me that wondered just how reliable of a narrator she was.
There were other characters that I found intriguing. Her mother and her aunt Tessa quickly come to mind, as does her stepbrother Lucas; however, it was some of the secondary characters in the story that really stood out to me, namely Zoe's lawyer Sam and her alcoholic uncle Richard. These two men were extremely complex... and troubled; and I found it interesting that the author chose to give the reader so much information about their characters in this story. It was probably this element of the novel that really brought it to the next level for me making THE PERFECT GIRL more of a literary thriller than just a murder mystery.
I also really, really liked how the author chose to tell this story. All of the events take place in about a 24 hour period. This made the story very fast-paced and also very intense. Also, the author used a variety of narrators to tell this story. Zoe, her aunt Tessa, and Sam were the primary ones; however, Lucas and Richard also provided a little bit to the novel. I thought Ms. Macmillan did a good job of giving each character a distinctive voice; and as a reader, I really liked getting a variety of sides to the story.
Finally, I will admit that I was a bit shocked with the end of the novel. Not so much in who was responsible for the murder of Maria. Rather, in how everything worked out in the end. I fear saying any more about the ending because I will give too much away. Suffice it to say that I found the twists at the end to be quite clever, but they also packed a powerful punch. All in all, a satisfying psychological thriller!
I'm anxious to see what my friends thought about this book and to discuss some of the characters. There is a reading guide included in the back of the novel which should come in handy for our discussion. Some of the themes you might want to explore include parent/child relationships, bringing up a gifted child, pressure, truth, family, second chances, loss, guilt, and grief.
If you are looking for a suspenseful read with some creative twists, then I highly recommend THE PERFECT GIRL.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.
Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.