Good Bad Girl by Alice Feeney is a cleverly-plotted mystery about mother and daughter relationships.

Alice Feeney’s Good Bad Girl is a story about mothers and daughters, wrapped up in the mystery of a baby that went missing twenty years ago, an eighteen-year-old who has gone missing in the present, and the murder of someone who isn’t really missed at all.

Feeney’s sixth novel is told from the points of view of four people, who at first seem to be only loosely connected. But as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that there is much more going on under the surface, and that almost no one is telling the truth about anything.

Twenty years ago a baby was stolen from its pram in a supermarket, setting in motion a chain of events that begin to converge in the present day, unravelling the delicate fabric that is barely holding the protagonists’ lives together.

Frankie Fletcher works in a prison library, and a year ago her daughter ran away. Patience is eighteen and working in a care home, where she has befriended Edith, a cantankerous eighty-year-old. And Clio is a therapist who loves in a pink house in Notting Hill, where she is wrapped in an impenetrable sadness for something terrible that happened in her past.

These four women cross paths in increasingly unexpected and unexplainable ways: at the care home, at a Covent Garden gallery, on a house boat, in a prison carpark, in a hospital. At times it even feels like a comedy of errors. As each chapter swaps to a new point of view, one character barely misses another character, or withholds a crucial piece of information, or is not recognised despite the obvious, all of them running around in circles, not really understanding what’s going on or the damage they are causing to themselves and each other.

It’s difficult to elaborate any more of the plot without giving away large parts of it. This book is simultaneously thrilling – the carefully-controlled revelations will keep readers guessing about the mystery of it all far into the plot – and frustrating, as characters build walls between each other and keep secrets in a bid to control their uncontrollable misfortune. But thankfully the whole mystery is unravelled by the end of the book, everything neatly wrapped up in a bow.

This book is ultimately about mothers and daughters, and the things they do to protect, hurt, and escape from each other. Many of the characters are quite miserable, carrying secrets, burdens, guilt, and shame that haunt them for most of their lives, unable to move on or heal from the mistakes of the past. But as the characters are constantly telling themselves, ‘Sometimes bad things happen to good people, so good people have to do bad things.’

It was not an easy one to puzzle out, Feeney reveals exactly what she wants you to know when she wants you to know it, and that intrigue will carry readers through the whole book. I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes an intriguing plot that keeps you guessing right to the end.

This review was first published on the AU Review.

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