The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood. This title was recommended by Stephen King as one of his favorite books from last year. Good enough for me!
The book deals with issues that are timely and have been in the headlines recently: namely, what happens to child killers once they've been released back into society? The story concerns two women, Amber and Kirsty. Twenty years ago, when the girls were young, they were convicted of murdering a 4 year old child. They were sent to separate institutions, and, in time, given new identities and released. Each woman has maintained her anonymity, even from family and friends, and they have had no contact with each other in the years following their release.
In the present day, Amber works in management at an amusement park in the seaside town of Whitmouth. She feels dowdy and unglamorous, but does have the consolation of living with the hunky Vic, who also works at the park. Kirsty is married with two children and works as a journalist. She travels around the country, following breaking news stories. The worlds of the two women are about to collide when the bodies of murdered young women begin appearing in Whitmouth, and eventually even inside the park where Amber works. Kirsty is sent to cover the story, and inevitably the two women reconnect. Neither woman especially wants to re-establish contact, but Amber is an important witness Kirsty would like to interview and once they see each other, there is an immediate recognition.
The chapters alternate between the events taking place in the present, and those that led up to the arrest and conviction of the two little girls. As children, the lives of Bel and Jade (as they were known then) couldn't have been more different. Jade came from a poor, neglectful family on a housing estate while Bel had a more privileged upbringing -- at least materially. Bel's mother had re-married and had another child, and while Bel lives in an upperclass area, she is neglected by her parents and overlooked in favor of her mother's child with the new husband. On the day of the crime, Bel and Jade meet for the first time in a candy store.
At the same time, a disturbed loner develops a fixation on one of Amber's co-workers that shifts itself to Amber when he believes Amber is the reason the woman will no longer speak to him. He observes the meetings between Amber and Kirsty, and, wanting to get revenge, begins following the women.
The book addresses a lot of important social issues, such as the varying quality of rehabilitation programs and the issue of trying children in adult court. The mob violence and hysterical atmosphere that surround criminal cases these days are also held up for examination. The book certainly was a page turner, both as I waited to see if the women's true identities would be exposed, and to find out what really happened when the child was killed all those years ago.
Final Verdict for The Wicked Girls: Four Gherkins, for being a thought-provoking novel about some important social issues
21 hours ago