In the summer of 1986 a four year old child is murdered and the shocking case that follows reveals the murderers, both girls, are only 11 years old themselves. The names Annabel Oldacre and Jade Walker and their young images become instantly recognisable to the British public as the faces of evil.
The Wicked Girls is set 25 years later when both girls have gone through the ‘system’ and been released with new identities. There are strict terms to their respective freedoms, one of which is that they must never contact one another again. This isn’t hard for them, the two were not friends, they had nothing in common, came from starkly different backgrounds and had never even met before the fateful day when they found themselves alone in charge of little Chloe.
Years later we learn that the two young girls were given very different opportunities whilst in detention and it is the girl from the poor background, Jade, who has ‘done well’, has a career and is married with children. Annabel, on the other hand, is living with a brute of a man and working in a seaside amusement arcade.
When a series of murders occur in the seaside town, Annabel and Jade, now Amber and Kirsty, are brought together in circumstances they could never have envisaged and soon realise that their true identities are in great danger of being revealed.
This story throws out questions in all directions; status and upbringing and what advantages these things may or may not offer, broken families and abuse. And when things do go wrong, the role of the media and the prison service.
I enjoyed The Wicked girls because, all the way through, it felt very real. There was such a relentless feeling of impending doom as Kirsty and Amber tried to hang on to some vestige of their new lives. The ending surprised me, ( and although I didn’t find it a bad ending I did wonder how well it sat with the rest of the novel), as did the account of what really happened on the day that Chloe died.
I listened to this one on Audible – the narration by Anna Bentinck was outstanding.