The Prized Girl by Amy K Green: a tale full of angst, anger and dark secrets - book review -

The Prized Girl
The Prized Girl

Jenny Kennedy is the perfect daughter, she’s popular with her school friends and a successful beauty queen… so who would want to kill her?

Jenny Kennedy is the perfect daughter, she’s popular with her school friends and a successful beauty queen… so who would want to kill her?

This gripping, small town American murder mystery – a tale full of angst, anger and dark secrets – comes from the pen of exciting debut author Amy K. Green who honed her silky, subtle skills in screenwriting and film production.

With her sharp eye for dysfunctional families, troubled teens and psychological tension – and a wicked brand of black humour – Green takes her readers on a haunting, mind-twisting journey into the shadowy heart of a picture-perfect New England community hiding a seething nest of poisonous truths.

Thirteen-year-old Jenny Kennedy is beautiful and brilliant, and appears to have it all. She’s adored by her parents and is the pageant queen of New England, winning more prizes than any other competitors, and inspiring admiration and envy in equal measure.

But then Jenny is found raped and murdered, left to die in woodland… a killing that rocks her estranged half-sister Virginia and the inhabitants of the small town where she grew up.

Thirteen years older than Jenny, Virginia – the sarcastic, abrasive, hard-drinking black sheep of the family – left home years ago when she ‘snapped’ under the pressure to be ‘successful’ and has been virtually disowned by her father Calvin and stepmother Linda ever since.

At first glance, Jenny's death appears clear-cut for police investigators. The most obvious suspect is Benjy Lincoln, one of her fans, ‘a grown man with a child’s IQ’ who had followed Jenny obsessively on the beauty pageant circuit and left his home a few weeks ago.

But Virginia, whose relationship with her half-sister was far from close, isn't so sure of his guilt and, with the help of young, keen and confident police detective Brandon Colsen, she takes matters into her own hands to find the killer.

Feeling guilty that she was ‘a lousy sister’ to Jenny and haunted by her own troubled teenage years, Virginia begins to suspect that a similar darkness lay beneath the sparkling veneer of Jenny's life… and that maybe things weren’t as perfect for her as they appeared.

Using a dual narrative that alternates between Jenny’s final turbulent weeks and Virginia’s relentless search for the truth behind her sister’s violent death, The Prized Girl follows a harrowing trail of buried secrets and an intriguing and unexpectedly long list of suspects.

Green delivers a series of shocking and often jaw-dropping plot twists and ramps up the tension as readers become privy to a disturbing history of fractured families and child abuse.

With its breathtaking insight, chilling atmospherics, a psychologically astute exploration of a town stalked by evil, and a cast of complex, cleverly drawn characters, this is an impressive first novel from an author to watch.

(HQ, paperback, £7.99)