Title: The Girl Remains
Author: Katherine Firkin
Genre: Crime & Mystery
Publisher: Penguin Random House Australia
Published: May 2021

If, like me, you are on a crime and mystery novel binge, The Girl Remains by Katherine Firkin needs to be on your TBR list. Set in a coastal Australian town, the disappearance of fifteen-year-old Cecilia May 20 years ago continues to haunt the little town. Neighbours distrust each other, the happiness of the community becomes duller and duller each year, and the convicted paedophile living on the girl’s street has “guilty” smeared across his forehead…but is all as it seems? Suddenly, several of Cecilia’s bones are discovered on the beach and, as Detective Emmett Corban and his team work to bring Cecilia’s killer to justice, more secrets, suspects, and other mysteries come forward and become mixed into the cold case.

As I read The Girl Remains, I was constantly trying to guess who killed Cecilia, but, like a couple of detectives noted, it seemed too obvious to blame the prime suspect. I definitely do not have the makings of a detective because to me every character in Cecilia’s life could have possibly been the murderer. The guilt many characters internally expressed did not help me when trying to guess who killed Cecilia; however, it made for a thrilling read! Since it was only suspected that Cecilia was dead, reading about her two best friends’ account of traipsing through the bush in the middle of the night before becoming separated was transfixing. As parts of Cecelia’s timeline are pieced together, the fresh, wholesome perception of the teenage girls becomes murkier. Secrets—kept by the girls and other community members from the police, their spouses, and each other—add more and more questions to the mix.

Although the story is well told and the plot keeps a good pace, I found the switching of character perspectives jarring at first. It was initially frustrating to settle into the mind of a character, become accustomed to their world, and then suddenly find yourself reading a completely different character’s perspective. The changing perspectives made the plot difficult to initially follow because the storylines were not connected…at first. Once I settled into the story, I became accustomed to the perspective changes and started attempting to make the connections between the characters. Firkin skilfully builds upon the opening mystery of Cecilia’s discovered body by adding more elements into the plot. The entire novel is not centred solely on Cecilia and therefore does not stumble upon the repetitive issues some crime and mystery novels can to fall into.

Until I finished Firkin’s novel (at 3am, so do NOT start reading before you go to bed!) I did not realise that The Girl Remains is the second book in a series centred on Detective Emmett Corban. As a standalone novel, the book works perfectly; however, I’m sure readers of the first book, Sticks and Stones, might notice links between the two! This novel is perfect for those who love mystery novels and especially those who love to guess who the killer is…I wonder if you’ll figure it out before you reach the end…   

Underground Team
editors.underground.writers@gmail.com

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