In Pinborough’s (Behind Her Eyes, 2018, etc.) twisty, decade-spanning, multivoiced thriller, everyone has secrets: teenager Ava; her mom, Lisa; and Lisa’s best friend, Marilyn.
On the surface, all three women fulfill the roles expected of them, and they support and love one another, but they don’t truly know each other. Ava, a competitive swimmer, is finishing up her exams and sneaking around with her first boyfriend while overly protective mom Lisa is about to clinch a big contract at work—and maybe even go on a date with a handsome millionaire client. Marilyn has been dealing with headaches at home, but she’s still game for a shopping trip to outfit Lisa for that big date. Soon, however, they will discover that someone else in their lives has a secret much darker than any they carry. This person is a murderer who is stalking a childhood friend who, they believe, betrayed their deepest trust. There are a lot of plot twists and reveals within the novel, some of which are surprising, some of which are expected. Pinborough weaves several different time periods and several different narrative voices to create layers of character and conflict, but the characters are types often found in psychological thrillers, and while their problems are often relatable, at least at first, they aren’t particularly engaging. It’s clear which decisions, and which silences, are going to get them into trouble, and yet, as people do, they carry on anyway. The one element that sets Pinborough’s novel apart from the slew of similar thrillers is the emphasis on female empowerment and the power of female relationships. These women need no one to save them, no knights in shining armor or handsome cops. As Marilyn succinctly puts it, “Fuck. That. Shit.”
Fans of Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins will find this comfortingly familiar despite (or maybe because of?) the shocks and turns along the way.