The Alibi Girl by C J Skuse:A cast of superbly created characters, a tantalising air of mystery, and a plot that keeps you guessing from the off - book review -

The Alibi Girl
The Alibi Girl

The Alibi Girl stars another of Skuse’s trademark deeply flawed and endlessly intriguing female leads who have kept readers hooked to the page in each of her clever, chilling, and highly entertaining psychological thrillers.

Every time Joanne Haynes leaves her cramped basement flat, she’s living a lie…

And when she’s romance novelist Charlotte buying a doughnut from the van parked on the seafront, when she’s busy GP and mother-of-five Mary relaxing at the hairdressers, or the chemo patient in the supermarket for whom the cashier feels ever so sorry, she is also spinning a web of deceit.

So who is this mysterious woman, what is her story, and what is the secret she’s so desperate to hide?

Best known for a string of smart and sassy teenage novels, the award-winning C. J. Skuse has turned her talents to some more ‘grown up’ writing, and after the runaway success of her wickedly funny and decidedly adult debut Sweetpea, and its sequel, In Bloom, she’s back to make us chuckle, gasp… and maybe even shed a quiet tear or two.

The Alibi Girl stars another of Skuse’s trademark deeply flawed and endlessly intriguing female leads who have kept readers hooked to the page in each of her clever, chilling, and highly entertaining psychological thrillers.

Set in a windswept seaside town on the north-west coast near Liverpool, and laced throughout with Skuse’s delicious brand of dark sarcasm, this is a rollercoaster ride full of revelations, gripping suspense and the kind of ups, downs and mind shocks that leave you breathless but dazzled.

Joanne Haynes has a carefully guarded secret. For a start, her name is not Joanne, her flat is not really hers, the cats inside it aren’t hers, and even her hair colour isn’t really hers. She also isn’t any of the women she pretends to be every time she leaves the flat.

The false names and imaginary life stories are all aliases, ‘acts’ intended to keep her ‘safe’ in ‘a world that feels so wrong all the time.’ In fact, the only thing that’s real about Joanne is that she has enemies and nobody can know who she really is.

One of her aliases is Genevieve, a chambermaid at a small local hotel, a job she had thought was relatively safe and obscure, but someone has got too close and knows too much. A young woman staying at the hotel has been found strangled in her room, and the victim looks unnervingly like Joanne.

Convinced that when the killer or killers discover that they have murdered the wrong person, they will come for Joanne instead… and now they know exactly where she is.

From causing some unexpected emotional moments and making you laugh out loud, to marvelling at the cunning twists and turns, The Alibi Girl is an addictive, menacing story with heartbreaking truths simmering at its centre.

Inside our obsessive, scheming and unreliable narrator is a woman with a disturbing history of violence, abuse, family dysfunction, and mental illness. The past rolls out in a series of revelations as we unearth old truths and make shocking discoveries in the present.

And with a cast of superbly created characters, a tantalising air of mystery, and a plot that keeps you guessing from the off, Skuse appears to have landed firmly on her feet in the world of fully-fledged, grown-up books.

(HQ, paperback, £7.99)