Meet David Connolly. A married, father of two, university lecturer working at the University of Dublin. He seems a man you’d want to befriend. His only worries are the decline in his mother’s mental state, and whether he should go for promotion at work.
Meet Caroline Connolly. Wife of David, she has just recently returned to the workforce after spending years at home being a full-time mother. Life is hectic, but good.
The Connolly’s marriage of seventeen years is fragile. A few years ago, Caroline had overheard her husband talking to his best friend after having had a few too many drinks. She heard him say that Linda (a former girlfriend) was the ‘love of his life’. Never able to completely forget his words, Caroline had a brief, unconsummated affair with a parent from her son’s school. David has forgiven her, but they have not completely recaptured their previous ease with one another. Doubt and suspicion are rampant.
Then, one day after his lecture on Irish history, a student approaches David saying “I think you might be my father”. Zoë Barry is her name. Her story shocks and astounds David, yet there is that element of plausibility that he cannot ignore. She says her mother was Linda Barry (whom David loved when he was a university student himself). Her statement will forever change the Connolly family dynamic.
After a DNA test, David makes overtures to Zoë. He invites her for Sunday lunch to meet the family. As the months pass, she becomes a frequent visitor. Though Robbie, the Connolly’s teenage son seems okay with her, Caroline and eleven-year-old Holly are not. Caroline doesn’t trust Zoë. The reader gets a sense of pervading dread. What havoc will Zoë wreck upon this family? For Zoë is not what she seems at first. On the surface, and in front of David, the waif-like Zoë is polite and charming. In front of Caroline she is taciturn and hostile. The reader realizes that she is manipulative, capricious, and cunning.
“The first time I felt the ripples of a new presence within my home, like a dye entering water, already changing the chemistry.”
When Zoë doesn’t turn up for Christmas dinner, the Connolly’s find out that she has tried to commit suicide. When David visits her in hospital he invites her to live in their home… It is then that the reader feels unnerved, alarmed, waiting to see how Zoë will further rend the family apart. You know it is coming… just not how, and when… You just know it will be insidious and corrosive.
“It’s a funny thing – trust. It was like someone had taken a hammer to that block of trust and began pounding at it, causing cracks to run through it like veins.”
With events reaching a crescendo, the final chapters hold plot twists that will please the most devout of thriller fans.
This is a story of guilt, forgiveness, regret, betrayal and manipulative behavior. Expertly written to evoke a sense of deep unease in the reader, the authors have created a subtle tension that pervades the entire novel. A domestic thriller that I highly recommend.
One thing’s for sure. I will be looking out for other books authored by this writing team.
Macmillan publishers have generously agreed to let me host a Giveaway for a print copy of “Girl Unknown“. I apologize to my Canadian and UK followers, but this giveaway is for residents of the United States only. To enter the giveaway, simply choose one of the three following methods. Either ‘like‘ this blog post, or share this book review via Twitter, or write a brief comment on this review in the section provided. A winner will be chosen on February 9th, 2018, and will be chosen via Random name picker and notified via email.
Paul Perry is the author of a number of critically acclaimed books. A winner of The Hennessy New Irish Writer of the Year Award, he is a lecturer in creative writing at Kingston University, London, and course director in poetry at the Faber Academy in Dublin.
Karen Gillece is the author of four critically acclaimed novels. In 2009 she won the European Union Prize for Literature (Ireland)