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.
The professor is David Connolly. He is a history professor in UCD and is in line for promotion. Caroline, his wife, was a stay at home mother but recently returned to work. She is an advertising executive. They have two children: Holly is 11 while Robbie is doing his Junior Cert.
When Zoë Barry turns up, David is at first not sure if she really is his daughter. In fact, he’s so unsure he arranges a surreptitious DNA test. Soon, however, he comes to believe she’s genuine.
David feels protective towards Zoë. When he introduces her to his family, things seem to go okay at first. At least, that’s how it looks 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. She exposes vulnerabilities and this threatens the Connolly’s 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. The 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. Zoë’s character emerges through their interactions with her.
Consequently, Zoë is somewhat less developed. While her motivations become clearer as the story progresses, she’s a bit of an enigma. She’s vulnerable but also 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]