The Official Book Blurb
‘I’m not safe – you have to help me…’
Little Lorna Bell is from a notorious family on a rundown estate. Everyone thinks she’s a nasty piece of work. The schoolchildren call her a thief. But Lorna’s hair is matted, her shoes pinch her feet and school teacher Claire Penny can’t help herself; some kids just need a bit more support, a bit more love, than the rest.
As the bond between teacher and pupil grows stronger, Claire sees Lorna’s bruises, and digs to uncover the disturbing tale behind them. Heartbroken, Claire knows she has to act. She must make Lorna safe. Just when Claire thinks she has protected Lorna, a chance encounter brings enigmatic stranger Marianne Cairns into their lives. Marianne seems generous and kind but there is something about her story that doesn’t quite add up. Why does she feel so at home, and why is Lorna suddenly so unsettled?
Claire has risked everything to save Lorna. But what can save Claire from the shocking truth?
So. You know when you read a book and you get a growing feeling of unease? Not a sudden burst of high stakes, adrenaline pumping tension that puts you on the edge of your seat, but that kind of slow build up of nerves that unsettles you. That knowledge, or rather than overwhelming feeling that something isn’t quite what it seems and that when the truth finally comes out, someone is going to pay a very high price. That’s how I would sum up Bad Little Girl by Frances Vick.
This is, in essence, a story of a very young girl from a troubled family background, Lorna Bell. Her brother is notorious around the school for his bad and disruptive behaviour, so much so that he has been excluded. Lorna is quiet, very reserved and so very clearly neglected that you have to wonder quite how the authorities have not been involved. Indeed, it is exactly this that teacher Claire Penny is wondering when she tries to help the young girl and get to the root of what it is that scares her. She tries to intervene with her mother, becomes infatuated with the family and the idea of saving Lorna, so much so that she becomes blinded to the impact it is having on her own life, especially after she suffers a devastating loss of her own.
Now the characters in this book are extremely well written, from the naive and incredibly caring Claire, to the neglected and troubled Lorna. Even Lorna’s mother and Step-father are so wonderfully crafted that you can’t help but take a dislike to them from the first moment you meet them. There seems to be little love for poor Lorna and the family home and circumstances are enough to elicit pity and concern from even the hardest heart. And as for the mad-cap Marianne, a woman they meet by chance who seems to move into Claire’s life with practiced ease, taking over in a way that both disturbs and delights in equal measure, you are never quite sure of her motivations. Is she friend or foe? Will Claire come to regret letting Marianne into her life, or will it be the other way around.
Frances Vick has achieved a great balance of pace and setting throughout. From the squallor of Lorna’s home, to the beauty and isolation of the Cornish coastline, the setting is matched perfectly by the pace of life. The urgency with which Lorna pleads for Claire’s help is a well played mirror of the tragedy unfolding in her life, and the pace ebbs and flows with the narrative, matching the tide of the wild seas battering the coastline and the growing tension within the small home Claire tries to build in Cornwall. And the way in which the author uses misdirection while dropping subtle hints which are easy to overlook or dismiss, just as Claire does, is quite effective.
I wouldn’t say that I was entirely surprised by what came to pass, or the revelations which came about two-thirds of the way through the book. As I said, subtle hints were dropped throughout and the eagle eyed would have put two and two together as I did. That said, there is a clear sociopath in amongst our not so happy little trio. someone whose actions have the capacity to shock even those who believe they are ready to expect anything. The final chapter was effective, the interaction between the characters true to form and the simple easy attitude of one of them quite chilling in truth.
I will be honest and say that the final few chapters of the book did seem a little hurried, the wrapping up of things quite quick given how long the author spent building the tension and bringing things to a head. That is probably the only thing stopping me giving this five stars as the writing was assured, the plot intriguing, and the characters engaging in a way that kept me glued to the book from start to finish.
If you like a good solid thriller with a bit of kick, and characters that can elicit both sympathy and fear, then I would say give this one a whirl. I would definitely read something by the author again, and look forward to seeing what Frances Vick releases next.
A troubled and twisted 4 stars.
My thanks to NetGalley and publishers Bookouture for the ARC of Bad Little Girl. It was released on 22nd February and is available to purchase at the following links: