The Wicked Girls

The Wicked Girls

3.9 27
by Alex Marwood
     
 

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“The suspense keeps the pages flying, but what sets this one apart is the palpable sense of onrushing doom.” —Stephen King, “The Best Books I Read This Year”

Alex Marwood’s new book, The Darkest Secret, is available now from Penguin Books

The Edgar Award-winning psychological thriller that asks

Overview

“The suspense keeps the pages flying, but what sets this one apart is the palpable sense of onrushing doom.” —Stephen King, “The Best Books I Read This Year”

Alex Marwood’s new book, The Darkest Secret, is available now from Penguin Books

The Edgar Award-winning psychological thriller that asks the question—how well can you know anyone?

On a fateful summer morning in 1986, two eleven-year-old girls meet for the first time. By the end of the day, they will both be charged with murder. Twenty-five years later, journalist Kirsty Lindsay is reporting on a series of sickening attacks on young female tourists in a seaside vacation town when her investigation leads her to interview carnival cleaner Amber Gordon. For Kirsty and Amber, it’s the first time they’ve seen each other since that dark day so many years ago. Now with new, vastly different lives—and unknowing families to protect—will they really be able to keep their wicked secret hidden?

Gripping and fast-paced, with an ending that will stay with you long after you’ve read it, The Wicked Girls takes you to a thrillingly dark place you’ve never been before. For fans of Gillian Flynn, Liane Moriarty, and Tana French.

“The Wicked Girls is ingenious and original. Real, chilling, true to its world and its characters. In short, a knock-out.” —Laura Lippman, New York Times bestselling author of And When She Was Good and What the Dead Know 

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A rundown British seaside amusement park, Funnland, provides the backdrop for the pseudonymous Marwood’s memorable first novel. Thanks to U.K. rehab policies, impoverished Jade Walker and neglected Bel Oldacre—accused, arrested, and sentenced as 11-year-olds for murdering a six-year-old girl in 1986—have become in 2011 Kirsty Lindsay, a newspaper stringer with an out-of-work husband, and Amber Gordon, a big-hearted Funnland cleaner, living with a handsome, enigmatic man given to black moods. Though the law forbids the two to meet, Amber’s discovery of a teenage girl’s body—the third local murder that year—in Innfinnity, the park’s creepy hall of mirrors, and Kirsty’s assignment to get the story behind the killings bring them together again. Marwood fills this disturbing thriller with sordid red herrings and brutal reflections of lower- and middle-class economic hardships, grinding in the sadly familiar message that societal injustice cruelly distorts women’s lives. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
“The suspense keeps the pages flying, but what sets this one apart is the palpable sense of onrushing doom.” —Stephen King, “The Best Books I Read This Year,” Entertainment Weekly 

“Harrowing. . . . While the received wisdom on violence committed by children seems to be that ‘some people just are born evil,’ Marwood makes a strong case that these crimes are more likely rooted in poverty, abuse and parental abandonment.” —Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
 
“The swirling mass of perceptions and happenings behind the main drama of Kirsty and Amber’s past crime is what makes The Wicked Girls more than a plot-driven mystery novel. (Not that it isn’t also that; Marwood sacrifices no speed, no engaging details or cliffhangers for the sake of the book’s spiky undercurrent.)” —The Rumpus

“In addition to being an excellent intelligent dark thriller in the vein of Gillian Flynn, The Wicked Girls presents an intriguing insider’s account of salacious British tabloid journalism” —BoingBoing
  
“[Alex] Marwood is equally at home with terrifying, potentially violent scenes and quieter ones revealing the tensions of work and family life. She is also adept at depicting the subtle and not so subtle ways differences in class shape the lives of the girls and the women they’ve become.” —Columbus Dispatch

“The pacing is whip-smart. . . . The Wicked Girls makes a compelling novel not easily forgotten.” —South Florida Sun Sentinel

“Riveting from first page to last. . . . A suspenseful, buzz-worthy novel.” —Kirkus (starred review)

“If Tana French and Gillian Flynn stayed up all night telling stories at an abandoned amusement park, this is awfully close to what they might come up with.” —Booklist (starred review)
   
“The Wicked Girls is ingenious and original—a novel that surprises and rewards its readers, delivering a twist of an ending that I never saw coming, then realized it was the only ending that could truly satisfy. Real, chilling, true to its world and its characters. In short, a knock-out.” —Laura Lippman, New York Times bestselling author of And When She Was Good and What the Dead Know

“The Wicked Girls is utterly compelling. It’s psychologically rich, complex and masterfully plotted. I couldn't put it down, even when I sensed it was taking me somewhere very dark indeed. I can't wait to see what Alex Marwood comes up with next.” —Jojo Moyes, New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You and After You

 

Library Journal
Marwood's riveting debut novel explores how a single act of violence committed by two 11-year-old girls not only shadows the rest of their lives but also connects them to a series of killings at a seaside vacation community years later. It's been 25 years since Jade Walker and Annabel Oldacre were convicted of murder, and their lives have taken dramatically different turns. Jade, now known as Kirsty, is a journalist with a dedicated husband and two children. Bel, now called Amber, supervises the evening cleaning shift at an amusement park on the boardwalk in Whitmouth. When young women begin to turn up dead in Whitmouth, Kirsty and Amber reconnect by chance. The rash of killings threatens to expose their carefully guarded secrets—and for one of them, these new murders hit very close to home. VERDICT Marwood has written a terrific thriller, full of dark turns and dread, and the twisty ending will stick with readers long after they finish the book. Fans of intelligent page-turners by such authors as Laura Lippman and Gillian Flynn will snatch this one up. [This title is a 2013 Thriller Award nominee for Best Paperback Original Novel.—Ed.]—Amy Hoseth, Colorado State Univ. Lib., Fort Collins
Kirkus Reviews
Marwood's chilling tale of two girls involved in the death of a small child and the resulting impact that act has on them is absorbing, plausible and unsettling. After circumstances throw Bel, the unwanted stepdaughter of a wealthy man, and Jade, the child of an outcast pig farmer, together, the two 11-year-olds find themselves on a destructive path that eventually reunites them more than two decades after the terrible deed that branded them as child killers. Hated and scorned by the public, vilified by the press, the two women are given new identities when they are released from custody and instructed never again to have contact with each other. Now they are Kirsty, a respectable freelance journalist with a husband and two children, and Amber, the manager of an amusement park in a slightly shabby seaside town. After a string of young women are murdered there, Kirsty travels to the town to cover the killings for one of her clients, eventually stumbling across Amber. It doesn't take long for them to realize how they know one another, and despite the order to remain apart, they soon find their paths intersecting with a deadly certainty. Marwood, a journalist writing under a pseudonym, constructs a tightly woven story that exposes the seamier side of human nature and the devastating circumstances that interwove the lives of these two women. Riveting from first page to last, this book unfolds by building on the unexpected. The author skillfully manages to populate the story with evil characters without ever going over the top, making the women sympathetic to the reader and keeping the suspense alive throughout. A suspenseful, buzz-worthy novel offering a sure-footed depiction of two women who lost their childhoods.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143123866
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/30/2013
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
99,316
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

The girl is dead. She doesn’t need to go near her to see that. Chinless, sightless, rag-doll dead. Wearing a striped tank top and a tube skirt; both have gathered around her waist, puppy-fat breasts and white thighs reflected in the mirrors, back, back, back to infinity.

Amber is not looking directly at the body. She’s nowhere near, in fact. She’s cleaned the mirror maze so often that she knows its tricks and turns, the way a figure at the far end of the building can seem, when you enter, to be standing right in front of you.

Or – in the case of the dead girl – half lying, her head and shoulders pressed against the wall.

Amber grips the door frame, struggles to breathe. Oh shit, she thinks. Why did I have to find her?

She can’t be more than seventeen. The mottled face – the mouth half open as though she is trying, one more time, to take a breath – still has traces of unformed childhood around the jaw. Blonde hair, blown and flicked up. Giant hoop earrings. Eyes made huge by half a pot of electric-blue eyeshadow, glitter gel spangling the naked décolletage. Platform boots, improbable in the angles they form with the mirrored floor.

She’s been at Stardust, thinks Amber. Saturday. It’s Seventies night at Stardust.

She feels sick. Glances behind her through the open door and sees that the concourse is empty. As though all her colleagues have dropped off the edge of the world.

She steps inside and closes the door to block out the light. Doesn’t want anyone else to see. Not yet. Not while shock has ripped her mask away.

Thank God I’m wearing rubber gloves, she thinks nonsensically. She has cleaned the place every night for the past three years and, however careful she is, her fingerprints will be all over it. Let alone the prints of half the visitors who’ve passed through since this time last night. They try to keep the smudges down by handing out disposable plastic gloves on the door, but you can’t actually force someone to wear them; can’t police the interior 24/7.

Innfinnityland is the only attraction Amber cleans herself, since her promotion. The place makes everyone uneasy, as though they are afraid that they will get lost and never find their way back, or that the mirrors themselves are infected with ghosts. Too many times the work, which needs to be autistically methodical, has been rushed and skimped, and smears have remained; and in a place like this, a single smear becomes an infinite number, the original hard to track down if you’re not working your way through, fingertip by fingertip, glass by glass. She decided long ago that it was easiest simply to do it herself. Wishes fervently now that she hadn’t.

The girl has green eyes, like Amber’s own. Her handbag –mock-croc – has fallen open and scattered poignant remnants of plans made, hopes cherished. A lipstick, a bottle of JLo, a pink phone with a metallic charm shaped like a stiletto court shoe . . .breezy statements of identity, turned tawdry beneath their owner’s glassy stare.

There is no blood. Just the impression of squeezing fingers livid on her neck. This is the third one this year, Amber thinks. It can’t be a coincidence. Two is coincidence; three is . . . oh, you poor child.

Amber is cold to the bone, though the night is warm. She edges her way forward slowly, like an old person, one shaking hand supporting her against the mirrors as she moves. As she advances, new reflections cross her sight line: a million corpses strewn across a hall of infinite size.

Then suddenly, herself. Face white, eyes large, mouth a thin line. Standing above the body like Lady Macbeth.

What were you going to do? Touch her?

The thought freezes her to the spot. She’s not been thinking. Shock has turned her into a creature of instinct, an automaton. Has made her forgetful.

What are you doing? You can’t be involved. You can’t. Anonymous. You’re meant to be anonymous. Get involved, they’ll work it out. Who you are. And once they know who you are…

She feels panic start up inside. The edgy tingle, the queasy itch. Familiar, never far from the surface. She needs to decide quickly.

I can’t be the one to find her.

She begins to back away. Feels her way back to the entrance. The dead girl gazes at infinity. Damn you, Amber thinks, suddenly angry. Why did you have to get yourself killed here? What are you even doing here, anyway? It’s been closed for hours. The park’s been closed for hours.

She catches her own thoughts and lets out a barking, ironic laugh. ‘Shit,’ she says out loud. ‘Oh God, what am I meant to do?’

Go and find help. Do what anyone would do, Amber. Go out there and act the way you feel: shocked and scared. No one’s going to ask questions. There’s someone killing girls in this town, but it doesn’t mean they’ll recognise who you are.

But they’ll take your photo. You know what the press are like. Anything to fill their pages; details to make up for lack of facts. You’ll be all over the papers as the woman who found the body.

I can’t do this.

Someone tries the entrance door, the sudden noise of the handle turning uselessly making her jump. She hears Jackie and Moses: Jackie chattering and flirting, Moses responding in monosyllables, but the smile clear in his voice.

‘She’s always in here,’ says Jackie. ‘After tea break. Amber? You in there? The door’s locked!’

Amber holds her breath, afraid that even the sound of her exhalation will call to them. Oh God, what do I do? I’ve got to get out of here.

‘C’mon,’ says Jackie. ‘Let’s try the back. Maybe she’s taking a break.’

‘Sure,’ says Moses.

That’s it, there’s no escape now. She hears their footsteps recede down the steps as they walk off towards the entrance to the service alley. Two minutes before they get here, maybe. She can’t get away, can’t undo the moment of discovery.

She straightens up, steps over the girl’s marionette legs and hurries to the emergency exit hidden behind the black curtain beyond. Best they find her out on the steps, out in the fresh air, throwing up.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

“Harrowing… while the received wisdom on violence committed by children seems to be that ‘some people just are born evil,’ Marwood makes a strong case that these crimes are more likely rooted in poverty, abuse and parental abandonment.” – Marilyn Stasio, The New York Time Book Review
 
“The swirling mass of perceptions and happenings behind the main drama of Kirsty and Amber’s past crime is what makes The Wicked Girls more than a plot-driven mystery novel. (Not that it isn’t also that; Marwood sacrifices no speed, no engaging details or cliffhangers for the sake of the book’s spiky undercurrent).” – The Rumpus

“In addition to being an excellent intelligent dark thriller in the vein of Gillian Flynn, The Wicked Girls presents an intriguing insider’s account of salacious British tabloid journalism” – BoingBoing
  
“[Alex] Marwood is equally at home with terrifying, potentially violent scenes and quieter ones revealing the tensions of work and family life. She is also adept at depicting the subtle and not so subtle ways differences in class shape the lives of the girls and the women they’ve become.”—Columbus Dispatch

“The pacing is whip-smart…The Wicked Girls makes a compelling novel not easily forgotten.” – South Florida Sun Sentinel

“Riveting from first page to last… A suspenseful, buzz-worthy novel.” – Kirkus (Starred Review)

“If Tana French and Gillian Flynn stayed up all night telling stories at an abandoned amusement park, this is awfully close to what they might come up with.” – Booklist (starred review)
   
"The Wicked Girls is ingenious and original -- a novel that surprises and rewards its readers, delivering a twist of an ending that I never saw coming, then realized it was the only ending that could truly satisfy. Real, chilling, true to its world and its characters. In short, a knock-out."—Laura Lippman, New York Times bestselling author of And When She Was Good and What the Dead Know

The Wicked Girls is utterly compelling. It's psychologically rich, complex and masterfully plotted. I couldn't put it down, even when I sensed it was taking me somewhere very dark indeed. I can't wait to see what Alex Marwood comes up with next.”—Jojo Moyes, New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You

“I loved it. I thought it was a brilliant exploration of the sins of the past colliding with the mistakes of the present; really well-written, multi-faceted characters, who behave in ways you wouldn’t expect them to: in other words, like real people. I particularly enjoyed seeing the effects of serious crime on the transient, seaside community and how the press apportion blame according to their own agenda – a really interesting insight into the way they conduct their business. So having read it and devoured every page, I will debase myself and say… I really wish I’d written it! It was cleverly plotted and pacy, with all the storylines thundering towards a final, gripping conclusion.”—Elizabeth Haynes, New York Times bestselling author of Into the Darkest Corner
 
“This incredible story will play on your mind. Two weeks after I read it, I can’t stop thinking about it. The book of the year.”—The Sun (UK)
 
“I devoured The Wicked Girls over one weekend and loved it. I held my breath during the last few chapters.”—Erin Kelly, author of  The Poison Tree
 
“The most gripping novel I've read in years. Dark, haunting, thought-provoking, brilliant - I couldn't recommend it more.”—India Knight, author of My Life on a Plate
 
 “A psychological thriller which jumps off the page, grabs you and takes you on a roller-coaster ride of emotions.”—Bookseller (UK)
 

 

 

Meet the Author

Alex Marwood is the pseudonym of a journalist who has worked extensively across the British press. Her first novel, The Wicked Girls, won the Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original, and was nominated for the Macavity Award for Best Mystery Novel and the Anthony and ITW Awards for Best Paperback Original. The Killer Next Door, her second novel, won a Macavity Award for Best Mystery Novel, was nominated for the Anthony and Barry, and has been optioned for film by James Franco and Ahna O’Reilly. Her third novel, The Darkest Secret, was published in 2016. Marwood lives in south London.

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The Wicked Girls 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
The_Book_Wheel_Blog More than 1 year ago
Wicked Girls is Wicked Awesome Note: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. I know, I know. My Boston roots are showing in the title of this post. But The Wicked Girls really is wicked awesome. I have, once again, to thank Jen at The Relentless Reader for stumbling across this book and sharing it with the rest of us. Without her, I never would have requested this one. The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood is about two girls who, at the age of 11, murdered a younger girl. The brutality of the murder was such that the two lived in infamy and were labelled by the press as The Wicked Girls. After aging out of separate juvenile detention centers and barred from speaking to each other ever again, the girls assume new identities and live their lives the best they know how. Kirsty becomes a journalist while Amber works at a local amusement park. Twenty years later, however, the two women inadvertently come face to face when a string of murders occur in Amber’s hometown and Kirsty is sent to cover them as part of the media circus. All too familiar with how the media can prey on victims, Kirsty is forced to weigh her conscience against her career. To say that I raced through this book is an understatement, but I did have some difficulties with it. Set in England, the author used an incredible amount of local slang that I didn’t understand. I’ve read a lot of British literary fiction and this was the most “difficult” read I’ve encountered. The tense also changed at seemingly random times. One paragraph would be “he/she” and the next “I” so it took a while for me to get used to it. Luckily, the story propelled at such a fast pace that I was able to easily skim over the slang and keep up with the changes. I should also point out that because this is a galley, I’m not entirely sure that the story hopped around as much as it seemed to. In a print book, there are ways to break up sections that are a lot easier to identify, so I’m not going to hold the format against it because it really is a great story. Plus it raises a lot of questions, which instead of answering I’m going to ask you! ¿
nausetsunriseKR More than 1 year ago
The author doesn't give too much away too soon, and this keeps you turning the pages, for sure! The story doesn't get very deep, and I wished for more details about exactly how the charges came about initially. I wonder if some of this I did not understand because I reside "in the colonies" versus the U.K. Even with this "less than believable" part of the book (for me), the story itself was fresh enough and different enough with a really neat plot twist that I would recommend the book to others.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story of what comes next - a smart and thoughtful analysis of whether society's youngest criminals can be redeemed or forgiven. Strong plot lines carry the story through the "slow" parts. Wish Bel's story was slightly more developed. However, it was a clever choice on the author's part to leave clues to Bel's motivation to the end.
Dollycas More than 1 year ago
On a fateful summer morning in 1986, two eleven-year-old girls meet for the first time. By the end of the day, they will both be charged with murder. Twenty-five years later, journalist Kirsty Lindsay is reporting on a series of sickening attacks on young female tourists in a seaside vacation town when her investigation leads her to interview carnival cleaner Amber Gordon. For Kirsty and Amber, it’s the first time they’ve seen each other since that dark day so many years ago. Now with new, vastly different lives—and unknowing families to protect—will they really be able to keep their wicked secret hidden? This is an excellent read! One day changes the lives of 2 girls who don’t even really like each other. There turns out to be so much more to the story that never saw the light of day and definitely was not brought out by the police or lawyers. Tried and convicted and locked away. Written off by their families and left on their own. When they are released from the detention center they are given new identities and a list of rules including never seeing each other again. That shouldn’t be hard as they had nothing in common to begin with and they were locked away in different facilities. Then again one day sends their lives into turmoil again. The book rotates between the present and past and the reader is just given the truth about what happened on the fateful day in 1986 in small bits and pieces. This format of the story makes it virtually impossible to put down. The story is set in the UK and is written by a successful journalist, under a pseudonym,  who has worked extensively across the British press . Other reviewers have drawn correlation to real-life cases so this author is writing what she knows or has covered. That makes this a very compelling, well written and well plotted story. It is gritty and dark and very powerful. The author made me feel a real connection with these girls. Even today, a few days after completing the book it is still giving me a haunted creepy feeling.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book catured me from the beginning. I could not put it down until the end. Very well written and thoughtful subject matter. I highly recommend Wicked Girls to anyone who enjoys a good thriller.
Ash5 More than 1 year ago
A true page turner! Imagine two eleven year olds murdering another girl. Gritty, powerful stuff. A true psychological thriller. Five stars
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. Not sure how to give a review without giving much away... definitely worth the read! Especially if you are a fan of Gillian Flynn.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book & the different perspective it gives the reader. There is suspense & it is a definite page turner, but it is more than that as well. The author really delves into the lives, backgrounds, thoughts & motivations of these women/girls. It is quite thought provoking. Extremely well written - I will most definitely be recommending this one to friends.
Kate2666 More than 1 year ago
Loved the concept of the book, all characters were with flows but very unique and interesting in their own way, this book defiantly a page turner, the reason why I gave this book 4 stars is because I was really hoping that those wicked girls accused of a horrible crime will finally get a break, but not only one did ...otherwise great read.
lgervais More than 1 year ago
I have always been a fan of books that take place in Britain and this book was a great example of why. The mystery of what happened between the girls was revealed in slow flashbacks and the present day mystery had me feeling nervous and excited at the same time. This story had me guessing at all times which is rare for a book to do. I highly recommend this book for those who like mystery and British lit.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A true mystery that touches on several social issues. Must read. I've passed the book around and we all agree it is a must read
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I wanted to love this book. I kept waiting for it to develop and come together, but it never did. By the end, I just wanted it to be over.
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