This review is written with thanks to Bookouture and Netgalley for my copy of The Girls Next Door.
In the prologue of The Girls Next Door, Katie is on her way to meet her boyfriend, Nathan, when she witnesses him and his friends stab local girl, Deanna. Katie tries to save Deanna, but she dies in her arms. She calls an ambulance and runs, thinking that she could be the boys' next victim. Fast forward six months, and Katie is detained in a secure unit, suspected of joint enterprise murder. As the town prepares for Katie's trial, four of her friends, Jess, Stacey, Ruby and Claire, and Jess' boyfriend, Cayden, are attacked. Three of the girls manage to escape the perpetrator, but Jess is taken to his house and held prisoner. It falls to Jess' aunt, DS Eden Berrisford, and her team to find out where Jess is. Can Jess be found before she is in real danger?
The Girls Next Door takes place over one weekend, although when I was reading, it felt much longer than this. This is testament to Sherratt's ability to create a fast paced novel which is full of tension. I was eager to find out where Jess was, who had kidnapped her and what the perpetrator's motive was, and this engaged me in the plot until the very end. The two plots - Jess' kidnap and Katie's impending trial - run alongside each other, and although this increases the tension in the novel, I found it difficult to see how they were connected. This does become clearer as the novel reaches its conclusion; however, I felt that my difficulty in linking the two plots caused the novel to lose momentum towards the middle.
The Girls Next Door is full of strong characters, not least DS Eden Berrisford. Eden is different to many detectives in literature, as she seems to lack the coldness of some of her counterparts from other novels. She has a private life, a past and a family, and her strengths as a detective lie in her ability to connect emotionally with the members of the community that she serves. This makes it easier for the reader to relate to her, and I am interested to see how the relationships established in the first novel in the series develop in future instalments. Sherratt also allows the reader insight into the lives of the victims, particularly Jess and Katie and their families, and this helped me to gain further understanding into the investigation into Jess' disappearance. However, as there are several victims, it took some time for me to establish how each character was linked, and this affected the momentum of the novel as it developed.
Overall, I was drawn into The Girls Next Door by Sherratt's ability to build tension in extraordinary circumstances encountered by seemingly ordinary people. I am looking forward to reading further novels featuring DS Berrisford and I am interested in how her character will develop over time.
The Girls Next Door is available from Amazon.