Published by Harlequin MIRA on July 29, 2014
"I've been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don't know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she's scared. But I will."
Born to a prominent Chicago judge and his stifled socialite wife, Mia Dennett moves against the grain as a young inner-city art teacher. One night, Mia enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn't show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. With his smooth moves and modest wit, at first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia's life.
Colin's job was to abduct Mia as part of a wild extortion plot and deliver her to his employers. But the plan takes an unexpected turn when Colin suddenly decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota, evading the police and his deadly superiors. Mia's mother, Eve, and detective Gabe Hoffman will stop at nothing to find them, but no one could have predicted the emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family's world to shatter.
An addictively suspenseful and tautly written thriller, The Good Girl is a compulsive debut that reveals how even in the perfect family, nothing is as it seems.
Before I even start to discuss the plot of The Good Girl, I have to mention the formatting of the e-ARC I read, which is the worst I’ve ever seen. (That is, I hope it’s ONLY the formatting of the e-ARC. If the finished copy – or even the physical ARC – is formatted like this, it’s inexplicable.) There are three POV’s in The Good Girl – all first person (the kidnapper, the mother of the kidnap victim, and the detective), and three different time frames. And yet, there is absolutely nothing to indicate when a POV switches. This confused the hell out of me the first time it happened. I assumed it was a single formatting mistake, but it soon became clear that this would be the style throughout the e-ARC. For the first half or so of the story, we at least get the POV switches at the beginning of some paragraphs. But eventually, the switches began to occur WITHIN a single paragraph. Here’s an example, shown exactly as it appears in the ARC:
“They don’t sell sketch pads at the local outfitters, so I had to drive all the way back to Grand Marais, to some bookstore while I kept her tied to the bathroom sink. I plan a party for her birthday, just in case. I invite James and Grace and my inlaws: James’s parents, and his brothers with their wives and children.”
If the combination of those three sentences sounds bizarre, imagine reading an entire book like this. The first sentence is from the POV of a kidnapper. The second and third sentences are from the POV of the mother of the kidnap victim. (One of these things is not the like the other….)
I wish I could say that this was the only problem The Good Girl, but it wasn’t. I’ve mentioned before in a couple of reviews of NA novels how much I hate when the female MC falls in love with with a stalker-ish, obsessive douchebag. The Good Girl takes it to another level by having Mia fall in love with Colin, her kidnapper who abuses her and regularly threatens to kill her. It’s made clear that this is not an example of Stockholm Syndrome, and that Mia is genuinely in love with Colin. I hate these abuser/abusee “romances,” and had I known that The Good Girl featured one, I would never have read it.
I know that not every reader feels as strongly as I do about this topic, and I can set aside my feelings to appreciate the positive aspects of the story. Aside from the formatting, the use of three POVs works. They all help to tell Mia’s story before, during, and after her kidnapping. We can never fully get into Mia’s mind, but these characters help us to chip away at Mia’s barriers.
The only character I really had any sympathy for was Mia’s mother. She was a neglectful parent to her two children and the very definition of trophy wife to her obnoxious, domineering, uncaring husband. I absolutely bought that her daughter’s kidnapping transformed her and made her determined to make up for her past mistakes. She has a lot to atone for, and she begins to do so with her relentless search to find out what happened to Mia.
On the other end of the spectrum is Colin, the kidnapper. Even though his actions are despicable, we are supposed to begin to care for him, just as Mia does. Sorry, but it didn’t work for me. We are giving an incredibly lame and cliched excuse for his decision to engage in kidnapping and terrorizing people. Even though he abuses Mia, we are supposed to forgive him when he begins to treat her not quite so terribly. The relationship between the two is impossible to accept, and I thought it was more than a little disgusting.
The Good Girl ends on a high note, though. If you’ve heard anything about this book, you’ve heard about its ending. Yes, it was shocking (to me, anyway), and when I reflected back on the story, I think it worked.
If you don’t think you’d have the same problems with Mia and Colin that I did, this is a good mystery novel to check out.
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.