Good Girl, Bad Girl

Written by Michael Robotham — In the past, Crime Fiction Lover reviewers have commented on how good Michael Robotham is at creating feisty, troubled, wholly realistic teenage girls. He’s turned that aspect up to 11 in this latest book, the first in a new series.

As the title suggests there are two of them. Jodie Sheehan is a talented ice skater, tipped for Olympic glory and committed to being the best she can be. At the other end of the scale is Evie Cormac, a troubled, damaged, self-destructive girl who has the darkest of dark pasts. A case of black and white, yin and yang, oil and water? Errr, no.

You see, Jodie is dead, brutally raped and murdered, her body hidden under branches in a Nottingham park. As the investigation into her death begins, a completely different picture of Jodie begins to emerge…

Meanwhile Evie, living in a secure unit for troubled teenagers, is about to appear in court. She is a mystery – a girl with no past, no birth certificate and no real name – and she wants to move out and live an independent life now she is reaching the age of 18. But is she 18? Who can tell? As an added complication, Evie can also unerringly tell when someone is lying or telling the truth. A neat trick, but something that’s somewhat underplayed in this book.

It’s time to introduce forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven, a man who is about to become closely involved in the story of both girls. Cyrus has a tragic past of his own. His brother killed their parents and twin sisters while Cyrus was out at football practice. As such, he can fully relate to Evie, whose story made headlines six years ago. She was found inside a secret room in a house in north London, just feet away from the mouldering body of a man who had been tortured to death. Since then she has never given any clues as to her real identity, hence her lack of paperwork.

Cyrus is asked to assess Evie as her case is about to come to court, to see whether he thinks she is fit to be given her freedom. Instead, there’s a very different outcome – just one of the many indicators that Cyrus is a little bit different… the perfect protagonist for a new series!

Cyrus lives in the old family home, a mouldy, semi-derelict pile that is packed full of memories for him, not all of them good. He’s a solitary sort and refuses to have a mobile phone, preferring face-to-face communications where possible. Obviously talking to Jodie is off the agenda but instead he talks to everyone who knew her and piece by piece the image of the perfect, hard-working, ambitious teenager begins to fall apart.

Meanwhile, Cyrus is building a fragile friendship with Evie and in chapters told from her viewpoint we begin to realise she remembers more than she’s ever let on. Is Cyrus the man to finally get through her carefully constructed shell and find the terrified little girl that still lurks behind the facade of the hard-as-nails-and-frightened-of-nothing teenager? Be prepared for plenty of drama as the dual storylines unspool.

The first book in a series is always a little disjointed, as we readers make the acquaintance of a new character and they are gradually bedded in by the writer. In Cyrus and Evie we have two very different people, both with compelling back stories and a world of possibilities ahead of them. And yes, I did mention them both, because although this might be billed as the first in the Cyrus Haven series it’s clear that Evie is going to be along for the ride too.

It’s a nice touch that as the tale winds down, there’s a sneaky little mention for Robotham’s best-loved serial character, Joe O’Loughlin. I get the feeling that Cyrus and Evie are destined for just as much adulation in the future.

Read our review of the latest Joe O’Loughlin book, The Other Wife, here. Troubled teenagers take centre stage in Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito.

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£10.99

CFL Rating: 4 stars

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