The Girls Next Door (Detective Eden Berrisford #1) by Mel Sherratt
Crime Fiction; 318 pgs
The Girls Next Door is a dark thriller about a group of teenage friends who have gotten in over their heads. The novel opens with the death of sixteen year old Deanna Barker and the events that follow leading up to the trial of the teens being held responsible for her death. How much should Katie be held accountable for a crime she witnessed and tried to stop? Will anyone believe her given her relationship and history with the boy who stabbed Deanna?
As a storm rages in Stockleigh, someone or someones are playing awfully mean pranks on this group of friends, targeting them and warning them to keep quiet. When one of their own goes missing, it raises the stakes even higher. Detective Eden Berrisford isn't sure how long she'll be allowed to stay on the case given her relationship to the missing girl, Jess Mountford, her niece, but she is determined to find her.
There are multiple threads of the story at play in The Girls Next Door. Grief permeates the pages in one form or another. The mother of the murdered girl is both bitter and angry, not to mention devastated by her daughter's senseless death. Then you have Katie, accused of being involved in a murder, and her family, struggling to deal with their separation, the accusations and societal judgement, not to mention the internal turmoil each of the family members are going through. These among several other characters struggling with their own challenges related to grief.
Kidnap victim Jess has her own family issues, being raised by her widowed mother and older sister. It was really hard for me to connect with Jess. She isn't an easy person to like. I felt more for her mom, who was working hard to provide for her family, and raise her two daughters on her own. Eden has her own teenage daughter and has her own baggage. She is good at her job though, that much is obvious.
The novel shifts from perspective to perspective throughout the novel, including the kidnapper's, and so no one person was the main focus of the novel. This may have contributed to my not really connecting to any of the characters as I never felt like I got to know any of them very well. But honestly, it was hard to sympathize with any of the kids involved given their own actions. I lost a little respect for the detective at the end of the novel, wishing she'd made a different choice (about a seemingly small matter)--but I realize it is hard when it is family involved.
Tension is high throughout The Girls Next Door, although I found it a struggle to read it at times. The message to parents to be involved in your child's life--know their friends and be vigilant to how much money they spend or how and where they spend their time coming across loud and clear. While I thought this to be a decent novel, I am on the fence about whether I will continue with this series or not.
You can learn more about Mel Sherratt and her books on the author's website. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.
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