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on 9 March 2012
Every nasty aspect of modern life is here - 'feral' children, journalists who'd sell their own mother for a lead, vigilante mobs, and the poor and ignorant who are exploited at every turn. But here you're given a glimpse of what lies behind all of this stuff of tabloid nightmares.

The scenes in which we re-live the event that triggers the story are very compelling, I was drawn into that world of naive decision making and catastrophic impulses which make your adult reader self want to cry 'Stop!'.

I would have loved to know more about what happened to many of the characters, even the ones who are completely repellent are fascinating.

A really good thriller, well written, well plotted and with enough 'nasty' to make you glad it's just a story.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 16 June 2012
Marwood has constructed a crime thriller with obvious allusions to the lives of other well documented child murders with the perpetrators being children themselves and how they assimilate back into society on release. Choosing her protagonists to be two women puts a neat twist onto the whole criminal responsibility of children as most of the well known cases tend to centre on male perpetrators. This, I found, was the most well-executed aspect of the book as the reader's sympathies shift and sway as more of the original crime unfolds throughout the book as Kirsty and Amber find themselves in grudging contact with each other as a serial murder infiltrates a small seaside town where Amber lives, and where Kirsty as a journalist goes to report on the events. The whole serial murder storyline I did find a little forced although it did serve as a backdrop, although unconvincing, to play out Kirsty and Amber's stories and I did find the final denouement a little far-fetched with just one too many unbelievable coincidences. I appreciate that Marwood wanted to capture the small-town mentality of this insular seaside town but thought it would be more feasible that a figure that was pillioried as much as Amber would maybe have `lost' herself better in a big city and this would have made the whole serial-killer aspect of the story, in terms of setting, a little more believable and I was surprised that she had remained undetected for as long as she had. Having said that I would recommend this book for the depth of humanity Marwood brings to her protagonists as she reveals little by little the tragic events of their youth and how this markedly affects them in their very different upbringings post-release and this alone makes `The Wicked Girls' an interesting read and a great choice for bookgroups as there are many talking points and potential areas of conflict ripe for discussion...
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This was a really gripping and fascinating read. As always when reviewing thrillers, it would be wrong of me to tell too much of the story. In brief, Bel and Jade were convicted for murder twenty-five years earlier, and are now living with new identities as Amber and Kirsty. One of the conditions of their release is that they must never contact each other, but their paths unexpectedly cross again when Kirsty, now a successful journalist, covers a story at Amber's place of work in the run-down seaside town of Whitmouth.

The book is full of weighty moral questions - nature and nurture, the age of responsibility for your actions, the rights of convicted child murderers to resume their lives, media responsibility, personal responsibility - and you inevitably reflect on recent news stories that brought the meatier issues to public attention. But as well as that, this book is an absolutely gripping read - impossible to put down, a book you'll think about constantly when you're not reading it, and for a long time after you've finished. The characters - even the minor ones, like the night shift workers - are drawn in wonderful detail, and you enter their murky world entirely. The setting is vividly drawn - we all know places like Whitmouth, with its brash seafront lights and dark deserted alleys behind. The whole book is superbly dark and gritty - the seediness and sleaziness of it all made me think of the books of Cathi Unsworth - and thoroughly absorbing. The pacing of it all is quite perfect, building to an explosive and unexpected climax.

I absolutely loved it - psychological thriller writing at its very best, a book that you'll have difficulty putting down, and which really makes you think as you feverishly turn the pages. I'm dying to see what Alex Marwood does next.
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on 3 March 2012
I heard about The Wicked Girls via Twitter. The joys of social media and connected devices meant that within a few minutes it had arrived on my Kindle. I'll say up front that I absolutely loved this - it gripped me from first to last. It's taut and tightly plotted with excellent definition of characters. The Wicked Girls of the title come to life both as their teenage selves and the adult versions. They and those around them are fully 3 dimensional and I felt that I came to know them as the story progressed. There are some interesting changes of pace - almost cinematic in slowing down to establish a sense of normality and speeding up as crimes unfold. Whilst the idea of getting inside the heads of children who have killed may not seem attractive I would urge you to read this - it is not all as it seems (can't really say more here without plot spoiling).
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on 7 March 2012
This book is an absolute page turner and a real thriller - but so much more than that. Alex Marwood shows real understanding for the psychology behind criminal types and their motivations. The writer evokes characters that are living and breathing and really transports you to their world. The Wicked Girls is incredibly atmospheric, drawing you into the winding dark lanes and seedy underbelly of a crumbling seaside town and the lives of the people that live there. I think this book would make a great tv series or movie. Very much looking forward to the next one!
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This is one of those books that truly deserves the sobriquet gripping. The story centers around two eleven year old girls who met one summers day in 1986, soon after they became known to the world as the girls who murdered another child. Released with new identities a terrible coincidence brings the two together twenty-five years later. A world where journalists are the news, the year when rioting was the news for a few days and the year a serial killer was at large in Whitmouth.

This story flips backwards and forwards from that fateful day twenty-five years ago and the present day, it is a story about how the media presents a version of the truth, a story about whether there can ever be redemption for those who cause revulsion in the general populace and a story of living a lie. It is a clever book which is well written ratcheting up the tension as matters spiral out of control in Whitmouth. One of the best I have read this year.
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on 31 March 2012
Such a satisfying read! It's fast moving, with a skillfully woven plot and a cast of well drawn characters (grotesque, sympathetic and other...)and locations. Hard-to-put-down not just on account of the plotting/pace/characterisation, but also because of the writing - you sense the author's enjoyment in creating these characters, there's plenty of humour in the dialogue. The danger for me with such a gripping story is the temptation to skip the odd paragraph to find out what happens next even faster. This back-fired as I had to re-read - on account of the brilliant prose. You can't afford to miss any of it. Some sentences are so perfectly, rhythmically balanced that I had to pause and read them over and over again!
Accomplished and entertaining writing and an exciting new name to watch out for - I can't wait for the next one.
It would make a fantastic film.
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on 11 March 2012
Alex Marwood's The Wicked Girls tells the story of two 11-year old girls, convicted of the murder of a four-year old child in the eighties and the resulting public outrage. After 25 years, Kirsty and Amber meet by accident during the investigation of a series of murders at second-rate seaside town Whitmouth. This was one of those books which made me wish my journey to work was longer - Marwood demonstrates genius at capturing the grubby glamour of the British seaside town and the plot never ceases to draw the reader in.

The characters are painfully real; the downtrodden fairground cleaner Amber gives the reader a crushing sense of being trapped in a situation she can't get out of while at the same time being only too aware of others' low expectations of her, and hers of herself. The controlling and bullying Vic will remind the reader of that feeling of being in a relationship where you are always on the back foot while Kirsty hides a multitude of insecurities and secrets behind a confident exterior. The supporting characters are no less finely-drawn; fellow cleaners Blessed and Jackie and frustrated house-husband Jim don't lack for detail and imagination.

The exploitation of the public by the media is explored in such a way that you find yourself subsequently examining your reaction to every story in the newspaper - in the hysteria around both the Whitmouth killings and the reporting of the 1986 murder there are echoes of Chris Jefferies (the wrongly-accused landlord of murder victim Joanna Yeates who was subjected to trial-by-media) and the prurient glee which surfaces every time the Jamie Bulger case pops up in the news. Marwood's depiction of press intrusion, fact-free journalism being outrageously misleading in its use of innuendo and the baying mob mentality from the public is perfectly executed.

Anyone following the Leveson inquiry will also recognise the pressure that journalists are put under to get a story, pressure which Kirsty suffers both as a journalist and a working mother expected by her employer to put her job above her family.

Without wishing to spoil the book for anyone who hasn't read it, the final sequence is simultaneously mesmerising and terrifying, while the preceding chapters contain some brilliant twists and turns. The Wicked Girls is unsettling, unputdownable and a must-read. As Alex Marwood's debut novel, I really hope there will be many more like it.
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on 15 March 2012
I am not one for long wordy reviews, not being an author myself. :-)
This is a brilliant read. I couldn't put it down, and find myself really gripped throughout. Highly recommended.
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on 28 November 2012
At one level this is a psychological thriller. It certainly succeeds in that way, too. But there is more here. The contemporary sex killings in a seedy seaside resort provide the backdrop to a murder many years before, a killing of a young child by two older girls, based partly on the case of Mary Bell and partly on that of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson. In the novel a narrative of the earlier death runs parallel to contemporary events, in which the two girls, now approaching middle age are also involved in different ways. The author reflects on how they dealt with their imprisonment and notoriety and tried to negotiate this inheritance from their childhood. The fundamental issue for both is should they search for redemption or amnesia - a choice ultimately determined for them by circumstances over which they have no control. The public perception of such children is well explored from different angles and the novel structure works really well to achieve this. This is what makes this a good book - not just a thriller.
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