cover image The Wicked Girls

The Wicked Girls

Alex Marwood. Penguin, $16 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-14-312386-6

A rundown British seaside amusement park, Funnland, provides the backdrop for the pseudonymous Marwood’s memorable first novel. Thanks to U.K. rehab policies, impoverished Jade Walker and neglected Bel Oldacre—accused, arrested, and sentenced as 11-year-olds for murdering a six-year-old girl in 1986—have become in 2011 Kirsty Lindsay, a newspaper stringer with an out-of-work husband, and Amber Gordon, a big-hearted Funnland cleaner, living with a handsome, enigmatic man given to black moods. Though the law forbids the two to meet, Amber’s discovery of a teenage girl’s body—the third local murder that year—in Innfinnity, the park’s creepy hall of mirrors, and Kirsty’s assignment to get the story behind the killings bring them together again. Marwood fills this disturbing thriller with sordid red herrings and brutal reflections of lower- and middle-class economic hardships, grinding in the sadly familiar message that societal injustice cruelly distorts women’s lives. (Aug.)