Good Girl Bad Girl

Written by Michael Robotham

Review written by Ali Karim

Ali Karim was a Board Member of Bouchercon [The World Crime & Mystery Convention] and co-chaired programming for Bouchercon Raleigh, North Carolina in 2015. He is Assistant Editor of Shots eZine, British correspondent for The Rap Sheet and writes and reviews for many US magazines & Ezines.

Good Girl Bad Girl
RRP: £19.99
Released: July 23 2019

This former journalist produces intensely thought-provoking crime-fiction; narratives that pose moral dilemmas for the reader, revealing that darkness can lurk under the veneers of our existence. Unsurprisingly, his  work has garnered international critical acclaim, and this new work is sure to follow that path. Audacious, complex and hypnotic are three words that best some up this novel.

Though a stand-alone, it is cut from the same fabric of his Joe O’Loughlin novels that featured that troubled psychologist. Instead, we have forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven, who is tasked to cast a professional eye over two cases, both which are troubling.

It opens with Adam Guthrie asking Cyrus for help with a mysterious girl who appears to be a ‘truth-wizard’ – a walking lie-detector. She’s referred to by some as ‘Angel Face’; and by others she’s Evie Cormac. She was a kidnapped teenager, held captive and abused for years, and finally subject to horrors that make one squirm. After she was freed from the ordeal, she became institutionalised, and is now a resident of a care-home. Allegedly aged eighteen, she wishes to leave the public-care system and has initiated the legal process. The problem is that her real (or true) identity and age are undetermined. The law requires an evaluation as to her ability to function as an adult in society before she is released from the care-home, so Cyrus Haven is called to make that judgement, that call.

Our psychologist (like the author’s former foil, Joe O’Loughlin), is himself a troubled character, mirroring aspects of Evie Cormac’s past. He survived a family massacre, one that haunts his dark moments. It was that trauma that makes him seek solace in the helping of others that have faced troubled childhoods.

Running concurrently, Cyrus is consulting with the police regarding the murder of teenage schoolgirl Jodie Sheehan; a popular girl who had the promise of a career as a championship ice-skater.

Finally, Evie is released from care, but under the supervision of Cyrus who has empathy with her past, for it is as fractured, as his own. So, as Cyrus unravels who from an array of shadows would (or could) have murdered the fifteen-year-old ice-skater, he gets help unexpectedly from Evie and her skills in seeing the lie, from the truth or vice-a-versa.

Some readers may find issue with the pacing, despite a front-row seat at the opening, and at the stunning climax; I would term the pacing as measured and with precision - we see both protagonists (Cyrus and Evie) together with the secondary characters stand-up from the page, bolt-upright, distinct and vivid in colour and odour. They make this narrative come away from the page and into the reader’s mind as pictures.

The themes that make us who we are, flaws striated against the goodness are revealed as the onion-skins are peeled away. We learn that despite outward appearances, little should be taken at face-value. Even the murder investigation focused upon Jodie Sheenan reveals that what lurks under the veneer of our lives, has blemishes, some of which are actually scabs.

I would indicate (without revealing spoilers), that this novel acts as a springboard for an intriguing series, based upon the ability to see the truth or ‘news’, against what some call lies or alternative facts.

With short chapters, two engaging and interesting main characters, this book is as addictive as it is thoughtful. Though, there are unanswered questions I hope the author with flesh out, as this novel cries out for an encore.

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