by Karen Perry
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (February 6, 2018)
“Explores emotional danger with relentless, surgical accuracy.”—Tana French, New York Times bestselling author of The Trespasser and Into the Woods
David and Caroline Connolly are swimming successfully through their marriage’s middle years—raising two children; overseeing care for David’s ailing mother; leaning into their careers, both at David’s university teaching job, where he’s up for an important promotion, and at the ad agency where Caroline has recently returned to work after years away while the children were little. The recent stresses of home renovation and of a brief romantic betrayal (Caroline’s) are behind them. The Connollys know and care for each other deeply.
Then one early fall afternoon, a student of sublime, waiflike beauty appears in David’s university office and says, “I think you might be my father.” And the fact of a youthful passion that David had tried to forget comes rushing back. In the person of this intriguing young woman, the Connollys may have a chance to expand who they are and how much they can love, or they may be making themselves vulnerable to menace. They face either an opportunity or a threat—but which is which? What happens when their hard-won family happiness meets a hard-luck beautiful girl?
There is an energy on campus during those first weeks of the new semester that is like nothing else. The air is charged with the frisson of possibility. A cheerful busyness takes hold, giving a new life and sheen to every faded surface, every jaded room… I felt it too— the beat of possibility, the urge to get a head start on the year. After seventeen years working at this university, I was still not immune to the buoyant lift of first-term energy.
We never had children because I didn’t want them. Any child I had with you might be born with a dorsal fin and several rows of teeth.
Mum had stepped toward the bed and was standing with one hand upon it, quietly contemplating it, when it occurred to me that the previous inhabitant had probably died in this room, in that very bed Mum was touching. And in all likelihood, my mother would die here too. A strange vertiginous thought. I felt like someone had punched me with it. I couldn’t escape the feeling that by moving her into this room I was somehow hastening her doom.
That night in the cold darkness at the top of the stairs, overhearing the conversation, that was the moment when things began to unravel for me… A pinched, mean voice inside me whispered: If you are not the love of his life, then what makes you so sure he is yours? … Like a stone dislodged deep inside me, I felt the structure of my being start to crumble.
She had the cool beauty of a glassy lake on a cold day— you wanted to stare at it, to take it all in, though you wouldn’t want to touch it. A coldness that seemed biting.
Girl Unknown was a gripping and enthralling read that steadily built and maintained an intriguing and inescapable level of tension and suspense as well as an unmistakable sense of impending doom from the very first word of the bewitching prologue to its devastating conclusion. I gasped in disbelief, cringed, flinched, held my breath, clenched my fist, and even growled in frustration at the annoyingly dense David, yet I was mesmerized by the storyline, transfixed by the narrative, embedded and engaged with the characters, and physically unable or unwilling to put my Kindle down any longer than necessary. The characters were as hypnotically intriguing as they were repellent and fractured. I loathed/loved/despised/pitied them in equal measure. Adulting did not happen yesterday. The storyline was cleverly well-crafted, alluring, and maddeningly fascinating while the writing was keenly honed, insightfully observant, well detailed, emotive, and infuriatingly well-paced. I must stalk these talented wordsmiths at every opportunity!
About Karen Perry
Karen Perry is the pen name of Dublin-based authors Paul Perry and Karen Gillece. Together they wrote Girl Unkown.
Karen Gillece is the author of several critically acclaimed novels. In 2009 she won the European Union Prize for Literature (Ireland).
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