by Gilly Macmillan
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Zoe Maisey is a seventeen-year-old musical prodigy with a genius IQ. Three years ago, she was involved in a tragic incident that left three classmates dead. She served her time, and now her mother, Maria, is resolved to keep that devastating fact tucked far away from their new beginning, hiding the past even from her new husband and demanding Zoe do the same.
Tonight Zoe is giving a recital that Maria has been planning for months. It needs to be the performance of her life. But instead, by the end of the evening, Maria is dead.
In the aftermath, everyone—police, family, Zoe's former solicitor, and Zoe herself—tries to piece together what happened. But as Zoe knows all too well, the truth is rarely straightforward, and the closer we are to someone, the less we may see.
Unfolding over a span of twenty-four hours through three compelling narratives, The Perfect Girl is gripping, surprising, and emotionally complex—a richly layered look at loyalty, second chances, and the way secrets unravel us all.
Lately thrillers have called me to read them, and The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan drew me in with its promise of gripping thriller and secrets. Fast paced, with different narratives I easily devoured The Perfect Girl in two sittings.
This was my first read by Macmillan who also penned What She Knew and Burnt Paper Sky. Told mostly from Zoe’s perspective we also get separate narratives from other characters sharing their lives, pasts, and the events that unfold. The timeline of the story takes place over a twenty-four hour period and the author brilliantly allowed the reader to become close to the characters.
Zoe Maise is a seventeen-year-old musical prodigy with a genius IQ and troubled past. Zoe attended an exclusive music school where she was bullied before becoming involved in an auto accident that left three of classmates dead. The events and fall out ruined her parents’ marriage. Now three years after the event, Zoe’s mother is remarried and they have moved away to live with her step dad and new brother Lucas. Zoe has a new baby sister named Grace and life is looking hopefully. We meet Zoe on the verge of a new beginning -a butterfly just emerging from her cocoon.
Macmillan delivers an engaging tale with beautiful prose that set the ominous tone. Through multiple narratives, she slowly begins to expose cracks, and secrets. She shares the catalysts for the events that unfold. I would say the first fifty percent deal with the evening’s events up until the body is found. It also shed light into Zoe’s tragic past, Aunt Tessa’s marriage and the new family’s secrets. The second half was clever, and twisted as we discover what happened and whodunit.
None of these characters are truly likeable, in fact, some you will down right loath. However, Macmillan did an excellent job of peeling back their layers while creating suspicion. Red herrings, twists and reveals all made for a compelling and addictive read.
I did figure out the whodunit aspect in The Perfect Girl, but loved the twist and will definitely be reading this author again. If you are looking for a good fall thriller, The Perfect Girl is an excellent place to start.
*The Perfect Girl was originally titled, and released with a UK publishing house as Butterfly in the Dark. I case you’re curious about all the passages regarding butterflies.