Tag Archives: serial killers

The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood – a review

This book is the first I’ve read by Alex Marwood, and was picked up on a whim when I was wandering around Waterstones a few months ago.

The story begins in 1986 with two young girls locked up for the murder of a younger child. 25 years later and after a change of identity for both girls their paths cross once again. Kirsty is now a reporter living with her husband and children who are unaware of her past crime. She is sent to investigate a series of brutal murders in a small seaside town. Here she comes face to face with her childhood friend, now called Amber. Amber is head cleaner at the funfair where the bodies are being left. The pair haven’t seen each other since they were both convicted of murder and one of the conditions of their new identities was that they were not to see each other again. However the shared history means they both find it hard to stay away, and in order to protect their secret they will have to work together.

Alongside the serial killer storyline that brings the two women back together there is a stalker on the loose who is changing who he has his sights on. In-between these two stories we also learn via flashbacks what happened on the day the girls first met and committed their crimes.

This book was a very good read. I thought that the way the author created the story and slowly revealed what had actually happened on the day the little girl was killed was done very cleverly. As an adult you can see what is about to happen, yet as young children the girls are not necessarily aware of the consequences of their actions. With this story there are of course obvious comparisons to other well known child murders, but putting that aside you start to feel sorry for the girls involved. It could be seen that what they do is purely a lack of judgement not actual desire to harm. The story shows how society often reacts to crimes they can’t comprehend and that things are not always as simple as a person simply being classed as ‘evil’

The serial killer plot was ok, although I’m not sure that the motives were particularly credible. I suspect that the serial killer was purely a vehicle to get the two girls to meet, but then I was mainly interested in how the girls story was panning out rather than anything the serial killer was doing.

I really enjoyed this, and thought it was a good story that makes you think about your perceptions of people, and how well you really know anyone. The twists within the story are based on how you change your ideas of the people involved rather than the usual ‘whodunnit’ stories but this made for an interesting read.

A very good debut novel and I’ll certainly be looking out for more of her work.

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If looks could kill

This weekend I watched the film the ‘Iron Lady’. Now regardless of your political standpoint I think you would be hard pushed to say this wasn’t a good film. A story of a woman who becomes the first female prime minister in the UK, her eventual downfall, and throughout it all her enduring relationship with her husband (Let’s forget the bit where she practically forgets about her children whilst she’s busy following her political ambitions, ignore the fact the film seems to gloss over much of the politics and the actual issues during her leadership, and not dwell on the fact she didn’t actually employ any other women in her cabinet, other than those who cleaned it) – the bit the film does include is pretty inspiring stuff!

This ‘story’ had a female lead character who women everywhere could be proud of. Right from the point that she gets engaged she is clear about what she wants. She isn’t interested in being someone who chooses to stay at home whilst expecting her husband to look after her. She’s going to look after herself and she wants to make a difference in the world not just in her own life. One of my favourite quotes was,

‘It used to be that people wanted to do something, now people want to be someone’

Completely true! The world is so self centred that very few of us do things purely for the sake of helping others or being proud of ourselves, its always about what you get out of it or how you look to other people. People spend more time worrying about what they look like, and what they can put on their status rather than taking any action about things. Another result of the facebook brainwash if you ask me!

If you picked up Margaret Thatcher and put her in a crime novel (again I hasten to add, go with me and ignore the politics!) she would be the kind of protagonist I would like. She wouldn’t wait around for a white knight on horseback to come and save her from the deranged serial killer, she’d have swung her handbag, glared at them and given them a lecture on how serial killers should pay the same poll tax as shop lifters.

That’s one of the things I like about Lisa Gardner books. In the one I am currently reading there are three main women involved, and all of them could to turn American ‘kick ass’. I’m always drawn to books by female writers in the hope they are going to have smart, clever, independent women, rather than poor defenceless victims. Give me a Chelsea Cain novel over a Mills and Boon anyday. To me a powerful female serial killer just seems much more exciting than a ‘lady of the house falls in love with the stable boy’ type of story.

However we all know that one women’s feminist icon can be another women’s serial murderer. It takes all sorts to make the world go round, and just as it would make life very dull if everyone had the same opinion over Margaret Thatcher and politics, it wouldn’t be much fun if we all read the same books!

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The body farm

Last weekend was a total washout weather wise. Half of York was underwater, roads were flooded and the garden was a soggy mess. It was a good weekend to be a duck. It was also good weekend to stay indoors and read if you ask me. There is nothing better than a Sunday afternoon when it’s raining cats and dogs, to curl up on the sofa with a good book and a hot chocolate (Ok a glass of red but hot chocolate sounded better in that particular scenario!)

However this weekend the parents were visiting, so rather than stay indoors we braved the elements and took a trip over to Knaresborough and Harrogate. Both of these are lovely places. Knaresborough has a great walk down by the river, where you can stare at all the houses you can’t afford and look at all the amazing gardens. This is not so much fun however, in gale force winds, temperatures that penguins would moan about and sheeting rain.

This was also the weekend for the Harrogate Flower Show. Whilst a bit of mud never hurt anyone, I went on the Thursday and you needed your wellies. By Sunday I imagine even pigs would have been calling for their sties to be on stilts. Luckily I managed to dodge the worst of the showers and pretty much see everything the flower show had to offer.

One of my favourite bits was the outdoor gardens, this year the theme was ‘small spaces’ (I have to say their idea of small was a bit different to mine, they were definitely free range size, my garden is more a battery hen size) One of these ‘small’ gardens was called The Writers Pad, which was a decking area, some shelves with books on them, a seat with a bench for a laptop and a water feature. The idea being it was meant to provide inspiration for writers.

Putting aside the obvious practical issue of storing books outside in this country, whilst it was lovely and calming, it wasn’t really what I would call inspirational. I suppose it depends what type of books you want to write as to what you would want as inspiration. Beatrix Potter would have probably been quite at home in the Writers Pad, dreaming up stories for Froggy the frog.

As a crime reader personally I thought that the Farming Museum I went to on Saturday with my Dad would provide more inspiration. If they got rid of the lambs and baby rabbits, it could have been renamed Museum of killing instruments. Massive machines with big spikes and conveyer belts were everywhere. Allegedly most of them were for turnip related things, but it looked like a great place to dismember and dispose of bodies if you ask me. They even had a man trap hanging on the wall (to be used on poachers not just passing single men!)

It would be interesting to know what does inspire crime readers, do they all sit around with pictures of torture and weapons on their walls, or do they look out over calming waterfalls and flying geese (real flocks, not the Hilda Ogden version) Personally were I to write a book a nice wet day would be my best inspiration, at least I live in the right country for it.

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Close enough to kill

A couple of weeks ago I met a friend for lunch and one topic of conversation was facebook (Not a book, although if it were a book, if you ask me Facebook accounts would be on a par with the telephone directory. We all have one sitting around and don’t really want to get rid of it, but have no interest in 99.9% of the people in it. Am I the only person who uses the phone book once the first time it arrives and only then to look myself up?)

At  lunch we were discussing the fact that lots of people with accounts on facebook have a huge amount of ‘friends’ but how many of these do they ever actually meet up with, or even have the ability to contact outside of Facebook means? They are virtual not real.

That’s one of the most exciting aspects of the Theakstons Crime Writers Festival, all these people that I’ve only seen on the fly covers of books are actually there in real life, walking around, signing books and having face to face conversations.  However, having a conversation with Martina Cole last year (where incidentally she told me my name would make a good name for a prostitute in one of her books) does not make me her friend. In the same way ‘poking’ someone on Facebook does not make them a friend.  I’m as nosy as the next person, and do use Facebook as a way of looking at what people are doing, but that tends to be people who I haven’t had a conversation with in 10 years. If I want to know what a real friend is up I’ll talk to them.

Saying that though, the crime loving part of me does enjoy the emergence of Facebook and especially twitter. Last year I was lucky enough to see Patricia Cornwall talk in Harrogate, and on my way home I set up a twitter account as she had mentioned that she was a prolific user. That evening I was therefore able to see that bad weather had grounded her flight and she had to drive all the way to Heathrow to fly back to America, rather than boarding at Leeds Bradford. I found this ability to track her movements rather fun, but there is still a big part of me that feels this is bordering on stalking. I know obviously I can only see what she wants to put on but still it somehow feels wrong and rather creepy.

I bet the ability to track people’s movements is becoming more and more a part of the serial killers armoury.  It must certainly save them time, no more of that hanging around on street corners waiting for the victim to return. They can just check out a potential victims status whilst sat in the warm with a nice glass of Chianti and wait until they see posted ‘loving spinning class tonight, now time to hit the shower’ then have a leisurely drive round!

Another conversational topic at this particular lunch was of course books (you may have gathered that a lot of my conversations involve books, its not even limited to friends, people at work, strangers on the bus, I bore them all!) I’ve recently introduced Patricia Cornwell to my friend, in return they suggested Carl Hiaasen, describing them as comedy crime capers. Not someone I’ve read before, although I’m always happy to try new books. Unfortunately however, as he’s not on the list for the festival I may have to wait a while. Maybe I should contact Mark Billingham via twitter and ask him to invite Carl Hiaasen, I am after all his twitter friend!

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