Thriller number two on your summer agenda is suited to those who prefer a fast-moving blockbuster to a nuanced tale (if you err on the side of subtlety, please redirect to my Based on a True Story review).
The Perfect Girl comes from Gilly Macmillan, who authored What She Knew, which I devoured two winters back. I was thrilled when I got my hands on an advance copy of the book, but was disappointed by the blurb, so it sat in the back of my closet for months until I finally picked it up. The Perfect Girl charts the rise and fall of Zoe, a gifted 17 year-old pianist, who is determined to start over after her involvement in a tragic car accident renders her a pariah in her hometown. Just as Zoe thinks the worst is over, a figure from her past shows up who threatens to upend the entire foundation of her new life. In the span of just 24 hours, she is not only exposed, but suddenly motherless.
The book unfolds over the course of another 24 hours, during the time following her mother’s death. Macmillan, undoubtedly an expert in the craft of the page-turner, wastes no time with plot lulls or character development—to a fault. It’s one thing when an author has harps too much on a particular personality trait present in their protagonist or villain, but it’s entirely another—and, in my opinion, entirely worse—when you learn so little about the character you are unable to decide whether or not their actions suit their personality. Macmillan is an expert at building suspense, but the different between this and What She Knew (which was excellent) is the manner in which the story unfolds after the climax. Macmillan reveals the killer far too quickly. I continued reading, despite being unimpressed with the reveal, hoping in vain for some additional plot twists or nuances. I got nothing. The Perfect Girl? Sure. The perfect thriller? Guess again.