It’s not often I read a book in a single sitting, but that’s exactly what happened with Girl Unknown by Karen Perry.
Part domestic drama, part psychological thriller, this story is about what happens when a first year student walks into a Professor’s office and claims to be his daughter.
David Connolly is a history professor in UCD. He has a good career and is in line for promotion. Caroline, his wife, was a stay at home mother but has recently returned to work as an advertising executive with a previous employer. They have two children: Holly is 11 and Robbie is doing his Junior Cert.
When Zoë Barry turns up, David is at first not sure whether she really is his daughter. In fact, he’s so unsure he even arranges a surreptitious DNA test. Soon, however, he comes to believe she’s genuine and he feels protective towards her.
When David introduces Zoë to his family, things seem to go okay at first from his point of view. But Caroline sees another side of Zoë. Nevertheless, partly because she feels guilty about unresolved issues from the past, Caroline allows Zoë into their home.
Gradually Zoë exploits tensions in the Connolly marriage and exposes vulnerabilities that threaten their security.
As Girl Unknown unfolds, Holly and Robbie play important roles but are less well realised than the other characters.
David and Caroline are well drawn and believable characters. Unresolved issues in their relationship leave them open to exploitation and Zoe knows how to take advantage.
The story is told from David’s and Caroline’s points of view with Zoë’s character revealed through their interactions with her.
Consequently, Zoë is less well developed although her motivations become clearer as the story progresses. She’s an enigma — vulnerable but manipulative.
At many points in this story it’s not what’s said, but rather what’s left unsaid that has the greatest impact.
Girl Unknown is a short, intense read with interesting twists, including a totally unexpected one at the end.
[Disclosure: I received an advance review copy via Netgalley]