Girl Unknown by Karen Perry | Review

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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]

My Husband The Stranger by Rebecca Done | Review

The first thing to say about My Husband The Stranger by Rebecca Done is that it isn’t really my kind of book.

While it’s a domestic drama — which I usually like — it’s stronger on relationships than on plot. So, it’s not as much of a page turner as stories that are stronger suspense.

Cover: My Husband The Stranger by Rebecca Done
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It’s about a woman whose husband’s personality changed following a brain injury.

Molly is a copywriter. She met her husband Alex and his twin brother Graham in a pub. Molly and Alex fell in love, married and were blissfully happy until Alex fell down some stairs at Graham’s flat.

The fall caused an injury that changed Alex’s personality. Where once he was kind and loving, after the fall he became moody and volatile. He and Molly often fight.

Coping with changed circumstances

Essentially, the story is about Molly’s difficulties living in a changed situation. While she still loves Alex, her life is different and she finds it hard to cope. She’s the breadwinner and also has to keep the house running smoothly. She runs into problems at work because she’s often late when things go wrong at home. Her boss is unsympathetic and although a colleague covers for her, she’s on a warning for turning up late and missing some appointments.

If you enjoy novels about relationships, there are certainly moments in My Husband The Stranger that will strike a chord. Who hasn’t had a failed relationship and wondered what might have happened if instead of getting involved at the outset, you had simply smiled and walked away?

But the pace of this story is slow and, while there is some mystery in the plot, it’s not until about two thirds of the way into the novel that things begin to get interesting.

The suspense has to do with Alex’s relationship with his twin brother. Once the focus shifts in this direction, the action picks up making the last third of My Husband The Stranger a better read.

My Husband The Stranger by Rebecca Done is published by Penguin.

[Disclosure: I received an Advance Review Copy via Netgalley.]