The Good Girl
Uncorrected proof copy courtesy of Harlequin AUS
Mia Dennett is the daughter of a well known judge and a socialite. When she was 17 she stated that she refused to do law and when she turned 18, she packed her bags and left. She got a degree on her own and now works as a high school teacher in an inner-city school. She has little to do with her family and mostly communicates with her mother via email.
One morning Eve, Mia’s mother is contacted by one of Mia’s colleagues because Mia hasn’t shown up for work and this is very unusual. Mia’s father, the judge is unconcerned – Mia went through a wild phase as a teenager and although this was years ago it seems he has a lot of trouble realising that Mia is an adult now, a grown up. As time ticks by and there is no sign of her, the investigation into what has happened to Mia is led by a detective named Gabe. It is his job to find out how Mia vanished, by design or by force and attempt to bring her home.
Colin’s job was to abduct Mia, to bring her to a designated drop off point and hand her over. There he’d be paid well for his trouble and he’d have the money he needs. But somewhere between coaxing Mia out of the bar and into his apartment under the pretense of a one night stand after she is stood up yet again by her on-off boyfriend and delivering her to the person that is paying him, he has a change of heart. He heads for the one place he’s sure they’ll never be found, a secluded cabin in the Minnesota wilderness. But the cabin was built only as a summer base for fishing, it’s not built for the winter weather that is fast approaching. There’s no adequate heating, they have little in the way of money, food and resources and if they don’t get found by those hunting them, the weather could claim them both. Colin just needs a little time to figure out a way they can all get out of this alive….but time is something that’s running out.
Ooh this was an interesting read! It’s told in a way that I didn’t really expect – the narrative belongs mostly to Mia’s mother Eve in a before/after setting as well as Gabe, the detective in charge of the case and funnily enough, Colin, who also calls himself Owen in his interactions with Mia. It means that the reader gets to know Mia mostly through other people – the mother she barely talks to and the man who kidnapped her for cash. This is quite a clever move.
The Good Girl is a multi-layered story that keeps taking characters and adding more to them, giving them different motivations and reasons behind their actions until nothing is really what it seems anymore. Colin/Owen and Mia are forced into each other’s company for much longer than he planned. They’re in a secluded cabin with almost no contact with the outside world. Colin/Owen is pretty much angry at the world and he has no time for someone he sees as excessively spoiled, someone who has grown up with everything in life due to wealthy parents. But Mia’s childhood, although one full of money and privilege was clearly lacking in other areas and she finds herself talking to him about memories and moments from her past. It takes a little while but, grudgingly, Colin/Owen begins to share things back.
I think reader opinions on Colin/Owen will really differ – on one hand, he’s a guy that does certain things for cash. He accepts the job to take Mia, he watches her, he approaches her in a bar and convinces her to leave with him. But for some reason, he has a change of heart and instead of exchanging her as planned, he flees, saving her life but almost certainly putting himself into a situation where it’s going to be very difficult for him to get out. As we learn more about Colin/Owen, his poor past and the reason he needs so much money, he does begin to become more sympathetic but at the same time, there was always something really holding me back from liking him. I think it was the way he continued to treat Mia after they arrived at the secluded cabin. I’m not sure they were really there long enough, or it was the right environment for things to evolve as they did between them and perhaps because the cabin scenes were from Colin/Owen’s perspective, there was a lot lacking for the reader. The latter part of it did feel very rapid though, a little bit clunky.
But I think where this book shines is the aftermath and the telling of what happens. Because Eve’s narrative includes an ‘after’ and it isn’t linear, the reader knows quite early part of the resolution of the kidnapping and the mental trauma and emotional disconnect is really well written. For me, the piecing together of the after was far more interesting than the ‘before’. And where this book really surprised me was the end. I should’ve seen it coming, there’s always one more twist at the end but I actually didn’t. I ended up having to read that part twice, I was so shocked by it.
Definitely well worth a read for the ending alone but there is a very clever story in here. In fact it’s the sort of book where you finish it and think that maybe you should read it again, to see what you missed.
Book #153 of 2014