I am delighted to be able to share my review of The Girl Who Came Back by Kerry Wilkinson as part of the blog blitz. Thanks to Kim Nash for inviting me to take a part.
The Official Book Blurb
Thirteen years ago Olivia Adams went missing. Now she’s back… or is she?
When six-year-old Olivia Adams disappeared from her back garden, the small community of Stoneridge was thrown into turmoil. How could a child vanish in the middle of a cosy English village?
Thirteen years on and Olivia is back. Her mother is convinced it’s her but not everyone is sure. If this is the missing girl, then where has she been – and what happened to her on that sunny afternoon?
If she’s an imposter, then who would be bold enough to try to fool a child’s own mother – and why?
Then there are those who would rather Olivia stayed missing. The past is the past and some secrets must remain buried.
An absorbing and gripping psychological thriller that will have you holding your breath until the final page.
From the very opening you know that this is going to be a book full of secrets, ones carefully constructed but which slowly, but surely, will begin to unravel. When we first meet Olivia, she is watching the woman she believes to be her mother as she works in her small cafe, oblivious to her audience. It seems simplistic enough a start to a story, but it does make you as a reader wonder. Why does Olivia not know her own mother? What has led to their estrangement?
If you have read the blurb then you will have an inkling, but if you read the opening chapter you will also know that there is more, far more, to this story than meets the eye. And this is the premise of The Girl Who Came Back. It is more than a simple story of a girl reunited with her family and friends in a town she can scarcely remember. More than a dissection of what happened in the years that she was missing. And yet it does encompass all of this with a slow building tension, an underlying sense that even in all the honest sharing of emotion between Olivia and her family, that something is still hidden. But what and by whom remains to be seen.
It is hard to talk too much about this book without dropping vital clues about the plot. I will say though that there are very few people in this book who feel truly honest. From Olivia to her family, they all seem to be hiding something. Kerry Wilkinson has been very good at creating an atmosphere which keeps you perhaps not quite on edge, but definitely looking over your shoulder. It is maybe only some of Olivia’s friends who feel completely open and transparent. Her new family certainly do not leave you with the warm and fuzzies. Her step-father and his brother are certainly suspicious of Olivia, aggressively so, but do they have good reason? Is Olivia the Cuckoo in the nest or is she really the long lost daughter? It is clear that she is far from a reliable narrator. There is something she is holding back, so much so that you are never quite certain of her motives.
The setting of the book is pretty well perfect – the small village in the middle of nowhere where nothing ever happens. Nothing other than the disappearance of young Olivia all those years ago. It leads to somewhat of a claustrophobic feeling in terms of the novel and yet informs the action too. Everyone who lives in the town seems in some way connected to Olivia, certainly everyone knows the story. That feeling of everyone knowing everyone else heightens the suspicion, ably leading the reader down the wrong path, while still feeding them vital clues as to what has really happened. It also feeds the emotional side of the story as Wilkinson deftly explores the impact the event had on the wider community and how it feeds the future generations.
Mostly told from Olivia’s perspective, there are chapters which focus upon another young girl growing up in a very difficult environment. But just who she is and how she impacts upon the story you will have to read to find out. Despite bouncing between the stories of the two girls, the book is easy to navigate and the tales compliment and inform each other well. I did find myself invested in both stories, wishing them on to a satisfactory conclusion.
I can’t claim to have been taken completely unawares by how the book concluded, but there was a certain twist that I wasn’t totally expecting and the tension does peak towards the end. The clues are all there if you want to play armchair detective. However, you could just let the story do the talking and try for once not anticipating the ending. Perhaps the novel could have been taken up a notch by delving deeper into the emotional impacts of both the abduction and the reappearance of Olivia as this sometimes felt glossed over. It was only really her father who showed the biggest reaction, descending into alcoholism. And perhaps some of them seemed too accepting of her return, too ready to believe in her even without the evidence they could so easily obtain. But then again, why wouldn’t they believe her? After all, a mother would always know their own child. Wouldn’t they?
If you’re looking for a well written read with a slow building tension that has you suspicions tingling throughout, then definitely give this book a whirl.
My thanks to Publishers Bookouture for the advance copy of The Girl Who Came Back for review. It is available now from the following retailers.
About the Author
Kerry Wilkinson is from the English county of Somerset but has spent far too long living in the north. It’s there that he’s picked up possibly made-up regional words like ‘barm’ and ‘ginnel’. He pretends to know what they mean.
He’s also been busy since turning thirty: his Jessica Daniel crime series has sold more than a million copies in the UK; he has written a fantasy-adventure trilogy for young adults; a second crime series featuring private investigator Andrew Hunter and the standalone thriller, Down Among The Dead Men.
Why not check out some of the other brilliant blogs taking part in the blitz: