Tuesday 4 August 2020

Just Like The Other Girls by Claire Douglas @Dougieclaire @PenguinUKBooks #JustLikeTheOtherGirls @MichaelJBooks

Una Richardson is devastated after the death of her mother. Hoping for a fresh start, she responds to an advertisement and steps into the rich, comforting world of elderly Mrs Elspeth McKenzie.

But Elspeth's home is not as safe as it seems.

Kathryn, her cold and bitter daughter, resents Una's presence. More disturbing is the evidence suggesting two girls lived here before.

What happened to the girls?

Why will the McKenzies not talk about them?

As the walls close in around her, Una fears she'll end up just like the other girls . . .

Just Like The Other Girls by Claire Douglas is published in paperback on 6 August 2020 by Penguin. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

I am a huge fan of a prologue / teaser and Claire Douglas teases her readers extremely well in the first few pages of Just Like The Other Girls. The opening couple of paragraphs scream tension as we are left teetering on the edge, wondering just what is about to happen. We are then thrust back to October 2018 where an unknown girl is beginning her first day in new job. It's all very mysterious.

The main part of the story begins three months later, in January 2019. Lead character Una makes her way towards a grand house in Brighton where she's applied for a job as a live-in carer. Una gets the job and the reminder of the novel details just how that change works out for her.

Una has had it tough lately. Her beloved mother died recently, far too young, taken by cancer. She's recently split from her boyfriend Vince and her dead-end job in a Care Home pays peanuts. Certainly not enough for her to save up to go travelling, something that she promised her Mum that she would do.
This job as a live-in carer for Elspeth McKenzie sounds like the answer to her prayers. She's even prepared to put up with Elspeth's frosty daughter Kathryn, especially as she has her own suite of rooms, far bigger and better than the poky room she previously had in the flat that she shared with her best friend Courtney.

As Una settles into the job, and the house, it becomes clear that Elspeth really doesn't need a carer and that she's lonely and just wants someone to be there. Elspeth can be cruel at one moment, and then happy and affectionate the next. Una is unsettled by the whole set up and confides in Courtney, but is determined to stick it out.

However, when she discovers that both her predecessor and the girl before her are both dead, she becomes concerned, especially when she discovers how alike in looks all three of them are.

Claire Douglas excels in throwing red herrings into her plot. There were many times when I was sure that I'd figured out exactly what was happening, only to be thrown a curveball and put completely off track; exactly what I love in a book!

Around half way through the story, then tension really ratchets up. The author delivers a huge shock to the reader, and the psychological impact is great.

There are some great characters in this story who are developed well with their various layers being unpeeled slowly and surely over the course of the story. Elspeth's house itself is almost a character in itself, with secrets and mysteries bound up in its walls, and the overall beauty of the house hiding years of pain and sadness.

Not just an everyday psychological thriller by any means, this author delves into the heart of the family and looks at how past mistakes can have far reaching consequences for generations to come.

Extremely clever and wickedly twisty, I enjoyed every single page of this one. It is finely plotted with a cast of characters who hide so much and are really well developed.

Claire Douglas always wanted to write novels and, after many years of trying to get published, her dream came true when she won the Marie Claire Debut Novel Award in 2013 with THE SISTERS.

Her subsequent novels LOCAL GIRL MISSING, LAST SEEN ALIVE and DO NOT DISTURB all reached the Sunday Times top ten bestsellers list and are published in over fifteen countries. LOCAL GIRL MISSING was the bestselling crime debut of 2018 in Germany. Her fifth thriller, THEN SHE VANISHES is due for release in Ebook end of June 2019 and in paperback August 2019.

You can find Claire on Twitter at @DougieClaire, instagram as clairedouglasauthor or visit her Facebook page clairedouglasauthor.

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