As a founder member of Mystery Women in 1997, promoting Crime Fiction has always been my passion.
Following the closure of Mystery Women, a new group was formed on 30th January 2012 promoting crime fiction.
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Harlequin Mira, 20 August 2015. ISBN: 978-1-848-45396-8 (PB)
Mary Kubica’s debut novel The Good Girl was an unexpected
word-of-mouth success written in secret. It garnered plaudits and movie offers,
and made the author’s name one to watch. Her second, Pretty Baby, was
written in full view of her family and friends, at the same time as she was
promoting the first.
A second novel is notoriously
more difficult than the first, and a successful first novel can be an especially
hard act to follow. Would Kubica live up to her early promise?
The short answer is yes, and
how! Pretty Baby lacks the twisty complexity of The Good Girl,
but is no less gripping. The gradually unfolding horror story it told drew me
in and clutched at me as the three narrating characters lurched towards their
Those three characters are
middle-class wife and husband Heidi and Chris, and Willow, the homeless cuckoo
Heidi takes into their nest. All three are damaged souls, Heidi and Willow by
matters outside their control, Chris by the life he has chosen to lead. Each
story strand is told in the first person; Heidi and Chris describe events as
they take place, while Willow’s is her own story, an account of what brought
her to the point at which she is roaming the streets of Chicago clutching an
old suitcase and a small baby.
Other well-drawn characters
are woven into the background: Zoe, Heidi and Chris’s pre-teen daughter, who
hates the world with that brand of venom peculiar to adolescent girls, but also
has her own vulnerabilities; neighbour Graham, bemused yet good-hearted;
stylish, ambitious Cassidy; Joseph and Miriam, about who the least said the
It’s not comfortable reading,
and all the more stifling because it takes place largely indoors, in Heidi and
Chris’s upmarket apartment and various upscale hotel rooms. At times Willow’s
narrative is harrowing: unfortunately a story which is all too often reflected
in real life, and one which Kubica handles with compassion, though without
pulling punches. Compassionate Heidi’s spiralling turmoil of feelings also
comes across sympathetically, along with the glimpses into her past which
explain her both her tender nature and her fragility. Chris has redeeming
features, though I couldn’t help feeling that his view of the situation
contributed to the shocking, though inevitable, fate which befalls his wife.
There’s an unusual final
twist, a kind of about-face which upends expectations but also feels right.
More power to Mary Kubica,
for creating a scenario which felt so real that I almost felt I was living it
alongside the characters.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Mary Kubicaholds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University
in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature. She lives outside of
Chicago with her husband and two children and enjoys photography, gardening,
and caring for the animals at a local shelter.
Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen,
and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but
never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher
for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now
burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with
books, about half of them crime fiction.