Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy! I hope you’re all doing well. Today I’m posting my review of Phoebe Morgan’s latest psychological thriller, ‘The Girl Next Door’! I was lucky enough to be part of the blog tour for this book – you can find that here. So, keep reading…
One little lie just became deadly…
Perfect mother. Perfect wife. Jane Goodwin has spent years building her picture-perfect life in the quiet town of Ashdon.
So when the girl next door, sixteen-year-old Clare Edwards, is found murdered, Jane knows she must first protect her family.
Every marriage has a few white lies and hers is no exception. Jane’s worked hard to cover up her dark secret from all those years ago – and she’ll do anything to keep it hidden…
** TRIGGER WARNING ** Contains references throughout to the brutal murder of a teenager. Explores the theme of domestic violence, including physical and emotional abuse. Includes references to sexual acts and loss of virginity.
‘The Girl Next Door’ (21st February 2019) is Phoebe Morgan’s second psychological thriller, following on from ‘The Doll House’ (October 2018). Phoebe studied English at Leeds University after growing up in the Suffolk countryside. She has previously worked as a journalist and now edits crime and women’s fiction for a publishing house during the day, and writes her own books in the evenings.
Phoebe Morgan’s books have received fantastic reviews, from the likes of many fellow authors including B.A. Paris: “A real page-turner, I loved this story”, C.L. Taylor: “Utterly absorbing, I couldn’t put this thrilling whodunnit down”, Helen Fields: “Morgan’s writing is both delicate and devastating”, Gillian McAllister: “Brilliantly creepy and insightfully written”, Amanda Robson: “Totally engrossing from start to finish” and Louise Jensen: “Gripping, manipulative and thrilling, I couldn’t put it down”.
‘The Girl Next Door’ follows Jane Goodwin, a perfect wife with the perfect family. When Jane’s neighbour, sixteen year old Clare Edwards, is murdered, Jane goes to great lengths to protect her family. But it soon becomes clear that Jane has a few skeletons in her closet, that are itching to get out…
The novel is narrated from the first-person perspectives of Jane and DS Madeline Shaw. The reader is provided with a deep insight to the characters’ thoughts, feelings and emotions, as well as information on the progression of the murder case. There are also diary entries from Clare included, leading up to the date of her death. This provides the reader with background information on Clare, as well as an intrusive insight to some of her personal problems. The narrative structure is fairly easy to follow, but still very effective.
Clare (although dead) is my favourite character in the novel. We are only able to discover information about Clare through her diary entries, and I really enjoyed reading these. She’s a beautiful, intelligent and extremely likeable sixteen year old, with her good looks attracting a lot of attention. But she’s very down to earth and humble, and she prefers to keep to herself. She’s a typical sixteen year old, who is stressed about exams and schoolwork, whilst trying to keep some secrets from her parents. I saw a lot of my past self in Clare, which is why I think I enjoyed reading her diary entries so much. She’s a very realistic and believable character.
The protagonist, Jane, is very well-written. She’s a doting housewife and does everything for her husband and children, and will go to great lengths to protect them from evil. She’s the victim of abuse, and resorts to extreme measures to hide this from the outside world. But it soon becomes clear that Jane has a dark side, and there’s much more to her than first meets the eye. She’s manipulative and lies frequently, and as a reader, I began to doubt whether I could trust a single thing about her. At times I felt great sympathy for her, and at times I despised her – and I really enjoyed experiencing all of these emotions towards a character.
DS Madeline Shaw is the chief detective assigned to the murder case of Clare Edwards. As you’d expect a detective to be, she’s suspicious about multiple people she comes across in relation to the case, and she is quick (perhaps foolishly so) to point the finger at certain suspects. She becomes very attached to the case, and will do everything she can to bring justice to the victim’s family. I did find the detective to be the flattest character of all of them in the book, and felt she didn’t have much of her own backstory, which was a little disappointing.
Other characters in the novel include: Jack (Jane’s husband), Harry (Jane’s son), Rachel (Clare’s mother), Mark (Clare’s deceased father), Ian (Clare’s stepfather), Nathan Warren (one of the suspects in the case), Lauren (Clare’s best friend), Owen (Clare’s friend), and various members of the police force. There is a reasonably large cast of characters in the book, but all bring something fresh and exciting to the story.
** TRIGGER WARNING ** (I apologise for any spoilers here.) The novel is centred around the brutal murder of Clare Edwards, of which the police team are working to uncover the murderer. All of the grizzly details of the crime are explored, including explicit references to the injuries sustained to the victim. The novel explores the theme of domestic violence in great detail, including references to both physical and emotional abuse. It explores domestic violence within both parties of a marriage, describing a husband inflicting violence on his wife, and vice versa. The theme of sex is explored in the novel, including loss of virginity and contraception. All of these issues are explored with appropriate sensitivity, but if you feel that any of these may trigger a negative response, I suggest you skip this book.
As the narrative motors onwards, the investigation into Clare’s murder becomes foggier and muddier. Just when you think you’ve worked out “whodunnit”, Morgan begins to shed light on another suspect, making the case even more complicated. Clare’s diary entries begin to get more personal and intimate, leading up to the day of her death…
So, let’s talk about the ending! There’s a massive twist which I definitely never saw coming. I was really surprised when the true killer was revealed, and I would never have guessed it was them. I really like the dark, sinister note that the book ends on – it’s very creepy, and implies some ambiguity to the story. I thought that the ending tied everything together brilliantly.
Overall, I highly recommend this novel to those of you who enjoy psychological thrillers, particularly if you enjoy reading books that explore the theme of domestic violence and/or unhealthy marriages. I really enjoyed the story, and I especially loved reading the diary entries from Clare herself. My only criticism is that I felt the detective/investigation aspect of the story was lacking and a bit flat – I didn’t really warm to any of the detectives, and found them all a bit robotic. But still, a very good read that I highly recommend!
Happy reading 🙂