I’m thrilled to be one of two hosts on the Bad Little Girl blog tour today, finally getting to share my review of this cracking psychological thriller by Frances Vick. Be sure to also check out Sarah’s review on By The Letter Book Reviews today.
‘I’m not safe – you have to help me…’
Little Lorna Bell is from a notorious family on a rundown estate. Everyone thinks she’s a nasty piece of work. The schoolchildren call her a thief. But Lorna’s hair is matted, her shoes pinch her feet and school teacher Claire Penny can’t help herself; some kids just need a bit more support, a bit more love, than the rest.
As the bond between teacher and pupil grows stronger, Claire sees Lorna’s bruises, and digs to uncover the disturbing tale behind them. Heartbroken, Claire knows she has to act. She must make Lorna safe.
Just when Claire thinks she has protected Lorna, a chance encounter brings enigmatic stranger Marianne Cairns into their lives. Marianne seems generous and kind but there is something about her story that doesn’t quite add up. Why does she feel so at home, and why is Lorna suddenly so unsettled?
Claire has risked everything to save Lorna. But what can save Claire from the shocking truth?
An utterly unputdownable and darkly compelling read that will have fans of The Girl on the Train, The Sister, and Gone Girl absolutely hooked.
Bad Little Girl is the story of Claire Penny, a teacher, and her pupil Lorna Bell. When Claire suspects that Lorna is being abused by her family she feels she has to take action to make the little girl safe. With that action comes consequences she never imagined…
Vick completely pulls you into the novel from the very first page. The prologue starts with a bang and then chapter one teases you with just enough information to compel you to keep reading to find out more. Written in third person narrative, Vick writes really well with vivid descriptions and I loved her use of smells and scents, especially in relation to Lorna, to describe people and the contradictions within them mixing sweetness with something altogether less pleasant. Bad Little Girl is not a fast-paced story, it is one of those insidious, creeping novels that gets under your skin and sets your nerves on edge although you are often left wondering why. It has that ‘something’s wrong but you can’t quite put your finger on’ quality to it.
The characters within Bad Little Girl are key to the whole book and they are strongly portrayed. Vick has cleverly written them so that they often leave that seed of niggling doubt in your mind as to whether or not you can trust them or believe them. Claire is a character you warm to immediately, but she also drove me mad! She clearly cares deeply about her job and the well-being of her pupils, to the detriment of her personal life. While her actions are not right they come from a good place and are well-intentioned, but every one of my ex-social worker senses was screaming out at her to make different choices. She finds it hard to go against people despite believing they are wrong. Claire is a woman who has missed out on her life and those opportunities to start a family of her own and I really felt for her. Lorna fulfils something within her that she hasn’t been able to achieve on her own.
Lorna is the child who is tarred by the reputation of her family, who is unlikely to succeed due to the unfortunate hand that fate has dealt her by making her a member of the Bell family. Switching between empathy and distrust, the character of Lorna kept me on my toes and messed with my head.
And then there is Marianne. Unfortunate enough to bump into Marianne in Cornwall, Claire finds she cannot get rid of her. Blatantly unstable from the start, the consequence of meeting another unsettled mind is devastating. Is Marianne manipulator or manipulated? Marianne is a highly unlikable character who I found particularly intriguing.
Underneath the layer of psychological thriller Vick raises some serious themes. This is also a novel about manipulation, the impact the history of your family has on you and if you can ever escape it and whether children grow up to quickly and are too knowing. Bad Little Girl would work really well within a reading group as it raises lots of issues that are ripe for discussion.
Bad Little Girl is an unsettling novel that it has you doubting what you are reading and who you can trust. It centres around some disturbing ideas that are thought-provoking and uncomfortable and you are left feeling uneasy. A great psychological thriller, highly recommended.
A huge thank you to Frances Vick and Kim Nash at Bookouture for my copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.
Published on 22 February 2017 by Bookouture.
About Frances Vick
The only child of parents who worked at a top security psychiatric hospital, Frances grew up receiving disquieting notes and presents from the patients. Expelled from school, she spent the next few years on the dole, augmenting her income by providing security and crewing for gigs, and being a guinea pig for medical trials. Later jobs included working in a theatre in Manhattan, teaching English in Japanese Junior High Schools, and being a life model in Italy, before coming back to London and working with homeless teenagers and refugees.