Title: The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 464 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss
Zoe Maisey is a seventeen-year-old musical prodigy with a genius IQ. Three years ago, she was involved in a tragic incident that left three classmates dead. She served her time, and now her mother, Maria, is resolved to keep that devastating fact tucked far away from their new beginning, hiding the past even from her new husband and demanding Zoe do the same.
Tonight Zoe is giving a recital that Maria has been planning for months. It needs to be the performance of her life. But instead, by the end of the evening, Maria is dead.
In the aftermath, everyone—police, family, Zoe’s former solicitor, and Zoe herself—tries to piece together what happened. But as Zoe knows all too well, the truth is rarely straightforward, and the closer we are to someone, the less we may see.
In The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan, Zoe Maisey’s new beginning comes to a horrifying end after her past collides with the present and her mother is murdered. This compelling whodunit is a spellbinding mystery written from multiple points of view and it soon becomes clear that nearly everyone is keeping secrets. But are any of these secrets worth killing over?
At the age of fourteen, piano prodigy Zoe Guerin’s promising future ended after she was involved in a drunk driving accident that left her three passengers dead. Having served her sentence and received extensive therapy, she and her mother, Marie, have started over in another town. Now living in a McMansion with her mom, her wealthy stepfather Chris Kennedy, her stepbrother Lucas, and her half-sister, Grace, Zoe is trying to put her past behind her. Playing in her first public recital alongside Lucas, she is stunned when the father of one the victims from the accident interrupts the performance. With their perfect life in jeopardy, Marie remains determined to keep the truth from Chris and by morning, she is dead. As the investigation into her mother’s murder unfolds, Zoe is terrified that history will repeat itself, so she remains uncooperative when interviewed by the police. In the meantime, Lucas tries to conceal a screenplay that has very ominous overtones. Chris willingly answers the investigators questions but why is he in such a hurry to leave his in-laws’ home? Will the police uncover the truth about Marie’s heartbreaking murder?
Zoe is deeply remorseful about the accident that took the lives of her best friend and fellow classmates, but she is also deeply bitter over her conviction. There is much more to her case than is first revealed and as the layers are slowly peeled back, it is impossible not to feel sorry for everything she endured in the aftermath. With her mom determined to start fresh, Zoe is forced to remain silent about this life altering event which leaves her feeling somewhat isolated. Focusing on music is therapeutic but this cannot erase the unfair verdict or her father’s subsequent abandonment. Although devastated by her mother’s death, Zoe’s first thought is to protect herself from the police and she immediately reaches out to Sam Locke, the lawyer who defended her in the drunk driving accident.
Sam is the midst of his own troubles when he meets with Zoe. A little uncomfortable to find himself in the company of Zoe’s Uncle Richard (who is married to her mother’s sister, Tessa), he pushes aside his unease to listen to her account of the events that led up to Marie’s death and he is confident that she has nothing to be worried about during the investigation. He advises Zoe to return to the station and fully co-operate with the police. After the fact, Sam fears he might have been a little quick to dismiss her concerns and he learns troubling information from a police friend. However his worry about Zoe is soon eclipsed by distressing news of his own and dealing with his personal life takes precedent over professional duties.
Zoe’s aunt Tessa is quite distraught at the news of Maria’s death and she is plagued with guilt that she was not more involved with their lives. Overwhelmed with her extended family staying with her as the police conduct interviews, she is resentful that her alcoholic husband Richard is not providing her with more support. Tessa is also worried that a secret she has been keeping will be unearthed so she is initially relieved by an apparent break in the case. However, relief quickly turns to fear when Tessa becomes afraid the evidence might implicate her niece.
Zoe’s stepbrother Lucas is an enigmatic figure who lingers on the periphery of the unfolding story. He is quiet and obedient with an interest in filmmaking that Chris does not approve of. Lucas is firmly under Chris’s thumb but Lucas’s concern for Maria and Zoe soon overrides his father’s control. His screenplay provides much needed insight and details about his family’s past but does it contain relevant information to the investigation?
With a cast of brilliantly developed characters, The Perfect Girl is a cleverly plotted mystery that is achingly poignant and rather somber. Gilly Macmillan adroitly reels readers into this intriguing story that touches on some dark subject matter. Tension builds as the truth about Zoe’s past and her somewhat harrowing experiences in the Unit (juvenile detention) are slowly revealed. The story meanders to a very dramatic and unexpected conclusion that is quite memorable. An absolutely riveting mystery that fans of the genre do not want to miss.