There is a lot to unpack in this review, so please be aware of spoilers.
When I started reading this book, I was not enjoying it. I’ll admit- for 100 pages or so, I was so turned off from the style of this book. If I hadn’t been determined to see what happens, I might have DNFed it. There is a lot of telling- which isn’t a bad thing- but it read more like a memoir, and with the main character being a rather unemotional, darkly minded person, this could get dry at times. I will admit to being bored during some of the set up, wondering where the plot would kick in.
But when it kicked in, it REALLY kicked in. This book goes underneath a drastic change- my review alone went from a two to a four start just based on the final 170 pages. There are some truly interesting writing methods used in this book that I really enjoyed; including dark fantasies highlighted by incredibly heavy music, which was well done, in my opinion. I really got to get a feel for the main character, who has some severe issues. This book is not for the light hearted- there is a scene that includes rape with a strap on, in which the main character truly thinks she did nothing wrong, and it nearly made me set the book down. Later sex scenes in the book, however, were pretty well done. I don’t often read erotica, but I’ve written it and read it enough to be able to tell good from bad- and the sexual content of this book is not only well written, but it’s used sparingly. This isn’t an erotica book, and the sex served only to tell the story, which I enjoyed. I also enjoyed subtle moments between Pam and her husband, and a genuine bond that began to show as the book went on. Lines like, “This is why I picked him” and “Isn’t he great?” Earned a smile from me, I love those sorts of subtle shows of affection.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from the storyline, as I didn’t really pay much attention to the blurb on the back- I wanted to experience it firsthand. When little girls started dying, things started clicking into place. The interest skyrocketed, as Pam struggled with her emotions to seemingly being in a place of blame for the death of the first girl- and then definitely being negligent in the death of the second girl, or so it seemed. There were so many ways to go with this, and my mind wandered to every possibility. Was she having a mental breakdown? Did she murder those girls and then not know it? Was there a false narrative? She certainly seemed willing to kill the third of the pretty princesses, much more so than the other two. I also wondered whether someone else was involved. Ricky, Hubby, her sweet little daughter who seemed to be the most innocent person in the entire book, maybe one of the other moms.
I won’t make any reveals here, but the ending blew me out of the water. While the telling narrative took time to grow used to, it ended up being exactly how this book needed to be told. The story is solid, and the end hits hard. I didn’t see it coming, not even slightly- which is rare for me, as thrillers are usually my bread and butter. This book is cleverly written, and though there were many moments that made me shudder from what was happening. Ms. Hall didn’t pull any punches, and as a fan of horror and thrillers, I love and respect that greatly.
Another thing that stunned me was that Pam, the main character, started out as an unemotional, uncaring, politically minded woman. I almost thought she was sociopathic, until things started to show that, no, she had emotions- but she was very detached. I wondered if I could connect to a character who couldn’t connect. But I found that by the end of the novel, I sympathized greatly for Pam and the way things ended up. This book took an unemotional, cunning woman, and turned her into a great tragedy, someone you wanted to see saved- and that takes masterful writing.
Overall, I would recommend this book, with a bit of caution. Firstly, because of its slow start, I think a lot of people might struggle to enjoy it if they don’t have the patience to keep reading. I know people who DNF a book after 50 pages- this book probably isn’t for those people. You have to be willing to wait for the payoff, which I think is incredibly worth the wait. Secondly, I would caution people who read this due to its content. Sexual content, child content, swearing, violence. It’s done tastefully, in my opinion, and done believably, but it still has a shock factor that even I wasn’t expecting. For those not scared of reading difficult, shocking moments, I couldn’t recommend this book enough- it really was one of the more exhilarating reads I’ve had in awhile. I was glued to it by the end, and I almost wish there were to be a sequel.