- Barbara Copperthwaite
Review: THE WRONG GIRL, Laura Wilson
"A tale of how celebrity obsession can go horribly wrong"
In 2007, three-year-old Phoebe Piper went missing on a family holiday. Despite massive publicity and a long investigation, no trace of her was ever found.
Seven years later, Molly Armitage, aged ten and recently uprooted to a Norfolk village, finds her great uncle Dan dead in his bed. Molly remembers nothing of her early years, but she's been sure for ages that she is Phoebe. Everything in her life points to it and now, finally, she has proof.
Dan's death brings his long-lost sister Janice back to Norfolk where she's re-united with Molly's mother Suzie, the daughter she gave up for adoption decades earlier. Janice discovers that a former lover, Joe Vincent, lives nearby. Joe was a rock star who, at the height of his fame, turned his back on celebrity and became a recluse.
As she is drawn back into the past, Janice begins to wonder if Dan's death and Joe's reputation as a damaged acid casualty are quite what they appear...
And then Molly disappears.
This is a slow burner of a story, which is very much character-led. Right from the start I was intrigued about the secret 10-year-old Molly was keeping. She’s convinced she is really Phoebe Piper, a child who disappeared when she was three. The girl even reckons she’s discovered evidence…just before her new ‘uncle’ dies in mysterious circumstances.
But he had a secret too – just what was he doing to protect an ageing rock star from the 1960s, who is so addled by drugs that he can barely remember his own name?
If you love celebrities, then this is a tale of how celebrity obsession can go horribly wrong…
But woven through all this intrigue is also the touching saga of a mother being reunited with the daughter she was forced to give up at birth for adoption. Both women are stiff, awkward, brittle, as they hedge around one another, each trying to deal with the tragic circumstances that have thrown them together.
The Wrong Girl is not a breathless page-turned, but a slow, steady tale that keep you hooked nonetheless. I couldn’t stop myself from turning the pages with a sense of unease, wondering how it was going to end. What’s more, the characters engaged me, despite not being particularly likeable.
I did feel that the ending didn’t live up to my hopes though. It was disappointing, but then again, I did have high expectations given that this is a novel by Laura Wilson.