First there was Gone Girl, then there was Girl on a Train. Suddenly everyone was wanting more edgy thrillers about women in danger and the publishers cottoned on and there were more and more of these chick noir novels appearing, often with the world ‘girl’ in the title.
While I believe this genre has been around in many forms since the beginning of storytelling – (from those Old Testament heroines like Yael and Deborah through to ‘the girl’ in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, just for starters), this new breed of heroine is often an unreliable narrator – drinks too much, has memory lapses, tells lies or is blinded by emotion – which makes things interesting.
Here’s a list of a few I’ve enjoyed in the past year or two:
Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan – Margot is a teacher who worries when a girl from her school goes missing. It strikes a cord and she can’t quite remember why. Her other job as a newspaper agony aunt gets interesting when she receives a letter from a girl who disappeared twenty years before asking for help. There’s a lot going on in this novel, and the unreliable narrator – a common thread in Chick Noir – works a treat.
Ruth Ware is to me the undisputed queen of this genre. Her books are smart, well-plotted and often have the bonus of an interesting setting. I read the The Woman in Cabin 10 in a day, it was so hard to put down. Lu Blacklock is a travel journalist who is offered a North Sea cruise. She’s a bit flakey after a home invasion, and drinks too much. When she thinks someone has been thrown overboard from the neighbouring cabin, no one will believe her. So of course she has to investigate herself. Gripping from start to finish.
Ware‘s third novel, The Lying Game is about four school friends who have happily lost touch with each other after a tragic event at their rural boarding school. When a body is discovered, the past comes crashing back and all four get together again to lend support and keep their stories straight. Ware does a great job of weaving in the back story while keeping the present tense and interesting.
The Drowning Lesson by Jane Shemilt has a very original story line. The Jordan family are on a sabbatical on Botswana when baby Sam is abducted. A year later, there are still no leads, but mother Emma won’t give up and move on. There are rifts beginning to appear in the family and the reader suspects this is a novel about grief and coming to terms with our worst fears, when the plot takes an unexpected twist.
And if we’re speaking of worst fears, Shari Lapena‘s novel The Couple Next Door must surely get a mention. Imagine if you are invited next door for dinner with the glamorous neighbours and the babysitter cries off at the last minute. But no problem, you have a baby monitor and you’re only next door so what could go wrong? A novel about a kidnapping that has plenty of twists and surprises to keep you guessing.
The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton has one of those determined, persistent heroines in the form of Yasmin, who has learned that her husband is missing in Alaska. So of course she sets off with young daughter Ruby to find him. It’s wintertime and there’s a storm coming, and while she hitches a ride with a truck driver, she ends up having to drive it herself, which makes for plenty of excitement. And of course there’s an evil malefactor and a conspiracy to do with oil and native land – so lots going on.