Top positive review
A clever and compelling thriller
1 June 2018
Having enjoyed and reviewed Jane Holland’s novel, ‘Forget Her Name’, I was very keen to read ‘Girl Number One’. After writing several novels in various genres, this was Holland’s first thriller. I am pleased to say I was not disappointed, as it is every bit as good as her most recent one.
The novel begins with the murder of Angela Blackwood, whose death is experienced through the eyes of her six-year-old daughter, Eleanor. After this, the story then fast-forwards eighteen years, to the anniversary of Angela’s death.
Ellie is now twenty-four and a PE teacher. She is sharing a cottage with her friend, Hannah, close to where her father is living, enabling her to keep an eye on him. Taking to drink after the loss of his wife, he managed to set fire to their family home while in a drunken state and is now living in a caravan on what is left of the farm.
However, her father is not the only one suffering. Ellie has her own demons to cope with, as the trauma of witnessing her mother’s death has inevitably taken its toll. Despite years of therapy, the identity of her mother’s killer is still buried somewhere in the deep recesses of her mind – and seemingly destined to remain there. That is until she decides to go for a run in the woods, on the anniversary of her mother’s death.
Finding herself unexpectedly detoured along the same path on which her mother died, Ellie is horrified to discover the naked body of a woman, lying in exactly the same spot as her mother. On the woman’s forehead is written the number three in black marker ink. Taken aback – and in a state of shock – Ellie immediately flees the scene to get help.
Although this discovery proves to be the catalyst for Ellie’s supressed memories to gradually emerge, it is also the start of an intriguing and dramatic storyline – especially when the body mysteriously disappears before the police arrive.
Undeterred by the scepticism of the police – and just about everyone else – who seem to think she is making the whole thing up to attract attention, Ellie decides to investigate the mystery herself, with the reluctant help of her best friend Tris. However, when she and Tris discover yet another woman’s body – this time bearing the number two on her forehead – it is not long before Ellie begins to wonder if the bodies are a personal message to her from the killer … that girl number one could be her. From that point on, it is hard for Ellie to know who she can trust, seeing virtually everyone as a suspect.
Throughout the novel, we are always on Ellie’s side. Traumatised as a child in the worst possible way, she is then, as a young adult, involved in a sinister murder mystery – a situation compounded by the doubts and suspicions of those closest to her. You can positively feel the frustration and anger rolling off the page.
As a main character, Ellie Blackwood is strong and determined. She never falters in her quest for the truth, despite the many – and in some cases literal – obstacles thrown in her path. But the story is also populated with a tapestry of supporting characters, unexpected plot twists and complex developments. Each character appears to be hiding something, so there is no shortage of plausible suspects to choose from. Tension and suspense are in plentiful supply.
I really enjoyed ‘Girl Number One’. It has an ingenious and engrossing plot, maintaining the excitement right up to the end. It is therefore a novel I can thoroughly recommend.