The Wild Girls by Phoebe Morgan: Fast-paced, brimming with darkness and deadly intrigue - book review -
They were known as the ‘wild girls,’ four close-knit friends who lived on the edge and loved to party, but two years ago their friendship was spectacularly blown apart
So why is their ringleader inviting them to join her for an all-expenses-paid birthday celebration in a remote corner of Southern Africa?
Brace yourself for another exhilarating, edge-of-the seat ride as Phoebe Morgan, one of the smartest authors currently writing mind-twisting thrillers, transports readers to the arid plains of Botswana for a toxic tale of secrets, lies, mystery and menace.
Morgan, who edits commercial fiction for a publishing house by day and writes her own books in the evenings, has a gift for delving into the deepest, darkest corners of relationships, and this electrifying page-turner delivers all the essential ingredients on any chiller-thriller fan’s wish list.
It’s been quite some time since Grace Carter, Felicity Denbigh, Alice Warner and Hannah Jones were together. The ‘wild girls,’ as they were once called, are no longer so wild. In fact, they have been estranged after one fateful evening two years ago and are now living separate lives.
Hannah has settled down with her lawyer husband Chris and new baby Max but things aren’t all rosy. She knows she should be grateful for what she’s got but she feels imprisoned by the lack of sleep and the responsibilities of motherhood.
Alice is a teacher and lives with her partner Tom, but their relationship has lost its shine, their London flat is cold and cheerless, and she has put on unwanted weight. And Alice is wary, she crossed a line once before and knows ‘how rapidly mistakes can spiral into more.’
Grace, meanwhile, has gone to ground… she has become a recluse in the home she shares with her outgoing flat mate Rosie. Grace is still haunted by events two years ago, finding it difficult to have other people in her ‘space,’ but she yearns for adventure after suffering for too long.
Only Felicity, the leader of the wild girl pack who now lives with her wealthy boyfriend in Manhattan, seems to have the same spark she once had and has invited them all on the weekend of a lifetime to celebrate her thirtieth birthday.
A mini-break in at a luxury safari lodge is a chance to put that night two years ago behind them, the night when things went very wrong and their bomb-proof friendship was shattered.
Despite their reservations, it’s an invitation Hannah, Alice and Grace can’t resist but on arriving at the lodge, a feeling of unease settles on all three women. Felicity isn’t there to meet them, there’s no sign of the party she promised, and the awful phone signal means that they are alone in the wild.
The hunt is most definitely on…
Morgan keeps us guessing from first page to last in this enthralling, tightly-plotted story as hidden truths about the women’s history and relationships are slowly revealed, and an intriguing multi-layered narrative, which constantly shifts between past and present, exposes the dangerous fissures in their friendship.
A keen observer of the fascinating dynamics of female relationships, Morgan places these four complex and dysfunctional women at the heart of her superbly plotted and deeply sinister mystery as the tension and sense of intense claustrophobia rise almost as high as the Botswanan mercury.
Lives, loves, betrayals, fears, suspicions and the friends’ increasingly fraught interactions are explored with Morgan’s forensic eye for psychological detail in an isolated, alien and totally unforgiving landscape.
Fast-paced, brimming with darkness and deadly intrigue, and with a final unsettling twist to blow your expectations out of the water, The Wild Girls is, rather fittingly, a wild rollercoaster and so addictive that it will almost certainly need to be consumed in a single sitting!
(HQ, paperback, £7.99)