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Ratings and Book Reviews ()

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4.3 out of 5
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  • A bit slow for me....

    “The Girl from Widow Hills” is Megan Miranda’s latest novel and is a slow burn mystery thriller. Having read this author’s previous books “The Last House Guest” and “The Perfect Stranger” and only just enjoying them, I was bit dubious about reading this her latest book. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t good. A very simple and quite predictable storyline that was particularly slow and had (for me) a silly denouement. The main protagonist Olivia is very dull and all the cast were sadly uninteresting and lacked character. I also felt there was some unanswered matters or unfinished business with a few people too. The writing was professional though and flowed easily and I totally loved the way transcripts and journalists reports were interspersed between the chapters, giving you a ‘real-time’ feel of when Arden went missing twenty years ago and this kept me going through the story. Overall a ‘meh’ book but that is just my opinion, I’m sure “The Girl from Widow Hills” will be enjoyed by many a reader and I will read more by this author again. 3 stars

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  • Tightly Plotted and Thrilling

    When Arden Maynor was 6 years old, she was swept away in a terrifying storm while sleepwalking and went missing for 3 days. Against all odds, she was found alive clinging onto a storm drain, and what followed was fame of the worst kind as her friends turned on her, and fans, bullies and stalkers began to appear. As soon as she was old enough, Arden changed her name and left Widow Hills for good. It has been 20 years now, and Olivia had almost forgotten what it was like to be Arden. That is, until she starts sleepwalking again. If Olivia can't trust herself, can she trust anyone? I have been excited to read The Girl From Widow Hills since I first read the description some months ago. The setup of a sleepwalker in a rural town who may have killed someone without knowing it – that is pure thriller gold. The possibilities of where such a story could go are endless and creepy, and I could not wait to get my hands on it. Megan Miranda did not disappoint. Her characters are shady and wonderfully inscrutable, her setting is perfectly homey with a touch of cabin-in-the-woods and her plot is as tight as a spiderweb. This is a book that you need to read with your eyes open (I mean figuratively. I do generally read with my eyes open). The details are such that you never quite know what is going to be important until it comes up again, and you have to flip back 50 pages and go “Ooh”. It is a mark of a good thriller that each odd detail is not actually important, yet some are. The trail the reader follows is not straight or direct; there are times you must give up all your theories and start over. Olivia Meyer. Hospital administrator, town newbie, loner, sleepwalker, liar. The unreliable narrator. I am a big fan of the way that we are automatically on the side of the main character, only to realise after some time that she may not be the hero of this story. Being forced to question the motives of characters you love can bring a book to life in ways that a straight up “good vs. bad” story never manages. Absolutely anyone could have been the villain of this piece until the puzzle pieces start to slide together. I found myself toying with the possibility of almost literally each character being the killer at some point during this book. That has a touch of Agatha Christie’s writing, really. I have to say that I was delighted to love this book, as I was a touch disappointed with the end of Miranda’s last book, The Last House Guest. I loved the characters, the setting and the plot, but the last few chapters let it down. The Girl From Widow Hills, however, kept its flow and manoeuvred it’s way to a graceful and surprising finale. Highly recommended.

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  • Past Becomes Present

    On the face of it Olivia seems to be pretty well set. She has a very responsible job in the administration wing of the local hospital, a couple of close friends, a beautiful home and a neighbour who looks out for her. Of course with the genre this is in you know that this is all going to be blown apart but that's what we are here for, right?! Sure enough not only did she have a huge childhood secret from her friends and colleagues but it seems it is now coming back to haunt her. Of course, as the reader, we know all about what this secret is from the outset and the story is interspersed with extracts from police interviews, eyewitness accounts and media interviews with the family after it was all over. I enjoyed these glimpses back in to the Arden Maynor case and, if I'm being honest had this been a straightforward story about that it would have been so much better. Instead we have the sometimes tedious story of how it is all coming back to haunt her. I get the premise of the story and the denouement makes sense (I won't discuss that here because you may want to read the book for yourself). However, for me it was all a bit obvious and contrived. Certainly, some of the red herrings planted by the author regarding Arden/Olivia in the present day leave you wondering what the author was thinking and how she ever thought they would fool the reader. Basically I gave this 3 Stars purely for the flashbacks to the disappearence and subsequent discovery of Arden Maynor and for a couple of later sections in the novel where Olivia starts to realise what really happened to her. The juxtaposition between the media take and the reality is handled well and was enjoyable to read. The rest of it not so much, too much padding and transparent misdirection. I was quite trepidacious going in to this book as I have read Megan Miranda before and, in my opinion, the stories are slowly going downhill. The basic plots are usually good but it is the execution of that plot that often lets the books down. In previous books there has been what I perceive as a needless wandering down red herring routes that appears to be nothing more than a way to pad the word count. To be honest this book suffers from that as well, fortunately to a lesser degree than in the previous book. However, I won't be excited to see a new book release from this author and will likely only pick it up if it is on a cheap offer. This review has been a long time coming. I actually read this book between the 13th and 27th July 2020 so my memory is a bit foggy about all the plot lines. Fortunately, I have a notebook where I jot some initial thoughts on the book and an overall ranking so between the book blurb and that I did have a reasonable handle on what I thought at the time of reading.

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