Review: The Girls Next Door by Mel Sherratt

Monday 24 October 2016
Title: The Girls Next Door
Author: Mel Sherratt
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: 27th October 2016
Pages: 296
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 3.5/5
Purchase: Amazon
One warm spring evening, five teenagers meet in a local park. Only four will come out alive.

Six months after the stabbing of sixteen-year-old Deanna Barker, someone is coming after the teenagers of Stockleigh, as a spate of vicious assaults rocks this small community. Revenge for Deanna? Or something more?

Detective Eden Berrisford is locked into a race against time to catch the twisted individual behind the attacks – but when her own niece, Jess Mountford, goes missing, the case gets personal.

With the kidnapper threatening Jess’s life, can Eden bring back her niece to safety? Or will the people of Stockleigh be forced to mourn another daughter…?

I love authors who continue to mix things up and try many different things in their books and it's clear that Mel Sherratt is one such author (or two authors if she's wearing her Marcie Steele hat). Some of the most memorable books I have read these past few years have been written by Mel, and I was incredibly excited to read The Girls Next Door. Whilst it was an enjoyable read, and one I had read in less than twenty-four hours, I have to admit that it did lack that punch and grittiness found in some of her other books, but because the story itself held my attention and I didn't work out where it was ultimately going, it is still a book I can recommend without hesitation and it features a brilliant main character in Detective Eden Berrisford who I hope to see return in the future.

It's difficult to know how much to talk about the plot because there's a lot to get to grips with as the book begins. A case of mistaken identity finds sixteen-year-old Deanna Barker being stabbed to death in a local park and those responsible being held before trial, including a young girl who the reader knows wasn't at fault but is locked up anyway because of the supposed evidence against her. I felt there was a missed opportunity to develop this character more, or for things to perhaps take a more sinister turn but I think that's just my own imagination running wild but as it raises questions about the law surrounding cases like this, that sinister turn might have made this more of a talking point and had more of an impact. What follows is the reader following the families of those affected by the murder of Deanna, including those responsible for the murder. Detective Eden Berrisford finds herself caught up in proceedings when her niece Jess is kidnapped, and other teenagers in the area find themselves attacked and warned to keep their mouths shut. Is there a connection to the upcoming trial or is it something else entirely?

The blurb might have people thinking that Jess is simply an innocent teenager who is kidnapped but very soon the reader finds out that there's a lot about Jess and her friends that their parents are unaware of and the plot takes a couple of diversions that I didn't see coming and I really found myself taking a dislike to Jess because she is the sort of girl that in school I wouldn't have liked. There's some brilliant misdirection here by Mel because even though I thought I knew what was about to happen, I had no idea just what was going to be revealed as the plot progressed, and certainly not at the end when everything became a lot clearer. There were certain things about the characters that in the beginning felt insignificant but which then went on to play a huge role in how the plot unfolded and I loved that because it was so unexpected. I did very much enjoy The Girls Next Door but I did find it lacking in places and because Mel has set an extremely high bar for herself with her previous work, I just think a couple of missed opportunities means that this isn't my favourite book by Mel but it's still one that I can recommend.

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