It seems that even Michael Robotham has succumbed to the thriller-with-girl-in-the-title. But his new book Good Girl, Bad Girl does actually revolve around two girls. One is a fourteen year old found murdered, and the other is the survivor of a terrible ordeal when she was much younger. Although which of these is the good girl and which is the bad girl is a matter of interpretation. Good Girl, Bad Girl is the start of a new series from Robotham. Like the Joe O’Loughlin series, it is narrated by and pivots around a psychologist, Cyrus Haven, who works with the police, with occasional interleaving chapters from his temporary ward, troubled survivor Evie.
When the book opens, Haven has been called in to assess Evie who is living in a children’s home. She immediately fascinates him by demonstrating an eerie capacity to tell when someone is lying. Only after the encounter does he learn that she is “Angel Face” a girl who was found living in a secret cupboard weeks after the man who had been holding her or protecting her, it is unclear, had been tortured to death in the house. Evie wants to live a normal life but she has no idea what a normal life is. Not long after this encounter Haven is called in by the police to help them solve the murder of a fourteen year old ice skating champion – Jodie Sheehan. It is this mystery that will drive the plot, complicated by Haven’s desire to help Evie and Evie’s involvement with the case.
This is an engaging start to a new series. Cyrus Haven is Robotham’s new Joe O’Loughlin, a man who it turns out was Haven’s lecturer at university. Given all that O’Loughlin and his family have been through it is probably a good time to give him a break. While Haven has a similar skill set – as a psychologist who consults to the police – he is younger, comes from a very different place and has his own harrowing backstory to deal with involving the death of his family. Evie herself also emerges as a main character but even at the end of the book very little has been revealed about what happened to her as a child. Details presumably that will come clear as the series progresses. This odd couple is very reminiscent of the recent Candice Fox series which started with Crimson Lake in which a methodical investigator is paired with an intuitive, reckless partner. While Evie may still be a child (possibly, her age is uncertain), she does get heavily, if accidentally, involved in Cyrus’ investigation and her uncanny ability to read people assists with its resolution.
Good Girl, Bad Girl finds Robotham still at the top of his craft. This is a well constructed, page turning crime thriller with engaging main characters and a host of interesting and dodgy supporting players. And while the solution becomes fairly clear early on (for regular crime readers anyway), the main characters’ journeys and their relationship with each other is what matters most. So that while the obligatory confrontation at the end of the book is a little over the top, readers are likely to be too concerned for Cyrus and Evie to care and will definitely want to find out what happens to them next.