In Canadian writer de Mariaffi’s debut mystery, a 1982 abduction and murder teaches girls growing up in Toronto how to be afraid.
It’s 1993, and rookie reporter Evie Jones has been put on the research beat at her newspaper, the Toronto Free Press, for a new feature she nicknames the “dead-girls weekend section.” She spends hours in the basement archives, reading old articles and running searches on LexisNexis to look up infamous local cases of kidnappings, rapes and murders of girls, to support a story about women's safety. Coincidentally, Evie has an intimate connection to this topic. Her best friend, Lianne, was raped and murdered in 1982 when she was 11, and the suspected killer, Robert Cameron, was never caught. As Evie gathers research to give her editor, she also embarks on her own investigation, trying to reconstruct Cameron’s movements. When she starts having doubts about Cameron’s guilt, her suspicions about the real killer make the past come hurtling dangerously toward her. Evie is a tough, wisecracking narrator worthy of the greatest private-eye pulp novels, but she isn’t hardened to the fear women live with. She can be alternately flippant (“Every girl I knew had a repertoire of raucous, horrifying rape jokes. One way to own it, I guess”) or terrified (“The safest place you can be is inside a shoebox, a tiny space that’s just for you”), but she's always honest and unflinching. This world is not a safe place for girls, and Evie has lived with that knowledge far too long.
With so many thrillers cheaply exploiting violence against girls and women, de Mariaffi’s (How to Get Along With Women, 2012) treatment of the topic, through Evie’s vulnerable yet empowered voice, is refreshingly reverent.