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The Girl Who Lived by Christopher Greyson

I don’t know how many of you do this but I generally pay scant attention to the ads that appear when I boot up my Kindle – I mean, I scan them quickly, take in the title of the book, author and the shoutline, but never take any of it seriously enough to purchase. They’re a consumer distraction – a necessary one for the pleasure and convenience of my Kindle. For some reason, I made an exception with the ad for The Girl Who Lived. I don’t think it was the “girl” in the title (I am wearying of those), but something about the whole title that resonated. I downloaded it before I could change my mind and began reading. Well, I couldn’t stop – not until I finished it at some ungodly hour of the morning.

This book tells the story of Faith Winters who, in her early twenties is an alcoholic with a criminal record released from a care facility and into strict probation. She has one chance to make it in the community or she’s back in a facility for good. Picked up by her mother, Faith is taken to a small flat that’s been given to her by her parent and loathed step-father. Ungrateful, skitchy, Faith isn’t easy to like. Wanting to be left alone with her memories, it’s not long before the reader learns just how terrible and destructive those are.

Dark and horrifying doesn’t begin to describe what Faith bore witness to on the eve of her thirteenth birthday some ten years earlier. The only witness to brutal murders, murders attributed to someone she loved dearly, she’s not believed when she contests police findings. As a consequence, she starts to think maybe she was wrong and so spirals into a life of psychiatric care, drugs, and alcohol as memories of blood, fear, terror and self-doubt overwhelm her. All this is exacerbated by her mother, a therapist who, as a part of her own recovery is advised to write down her feelings on what happened. The result is not her own story, but that of her daughter’s trauma, a book called The Girl Who Lived.

The book and her memories haunt Faith and all of this is made worse on her release back into the community where she grew up. But when she believes she sees the man she thinks is the killer, and someone starts playing mind games with her, no-one believes her. Not helping her own case, she continues to drink and abuse prescription drugs, defying her probation rules and shedding self-doubt on what her heart is telling her is the truth – or is it?

Dark, utterly suspenseful, the reader is taken into a maze by an unreliable, oft-drunk and prickly narrator who, nonetheless, you end up championing. The other characters who hover around Faith are so well-crafted that, like Faith, you don’t know who you can trust. While I guessed the ending, it is still so well executed, and entirely plausible, it’s breath-taking and shocking all at once.

A sensational read that had me searching for more books by Greyson. This may have been the first of his I read, it certainly won’t be the last! I think I might pay more attention to those ads in the future as well…

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