Ten years ago, four people were brutally murdered. One girl lived.
No one believes her story.
The police think she’s crazy.
Her therapist thinks she’s suicidal.
Everyone else thinks she’s a dangerous drunk.
They’re all right—but did she see the killer?
As the anniversary of the murders approaches, Faith Winters is released from the psychiatric hospital and yanked back to the last spot on earth she wants to be—her hometown where the slayings took place. Wracked by the lingering echoes of survivor’s guilt, Faith spirals into a black hole of alcoholism and wanton self-destruction. Finding no solace at the bottom of a bottle, Faith decides to track down her sister’s killer—and then discovers that she’s the one being hunted.
How can one woman uncover the truth when everyone’s a suspect—including herself?
From the mind of Wall Street Journal bestselling author Christopher Greyson comes a story with twists and turns that take the reader on a journey of light and dark, good and evil, to the edge of madness. The Girl Who Lived should come with a warning label: Once you start reading, you won’t be able to stop. Not since Girl on the Train and Gone Girl has a psychological thriller kept readers so addicted—and guessing right until the last page.[Goodreads]
Publisher: Greyson Media
Date finished: 8 May 2020
Sigh… Another book joins the ranks of “thrillers I absolutely adored until the last few chapters had to go and ruin the fun for everyone”. I was so sure that this was going to be a four- or five-star read that would bring me some semblance of joy in this virus-ridden hellscape. Alas.
In the interests of a fair discussion, I’ll put the ending aside for now. We can approach this book with the same attitude as a major news source outlining the background of a white school shooter – by focusing on (you guessed it!) its potential.
As far as psychological thrillers go, The Girl Who Lived is one of the most compelling I’ve read in the past few years. At its centre is Faith Winters: survivor, alcoholic, and local freak-show thanks to her mother’s bestselling book about her miraculous escape from the men who killed her father, sister and best friend. After years of therapy and a recent stint in a psychiatric hospital, Faith returns to her hometown just in time for the ten-year anniversary of the day that tore her life apart. But the killer is still out there – she’s seen him – and now she’s determined to solve the case that everyone else believes has gone cold.
Faith teeters on the edge of insanity, her narrative destabilising its readers at every available opportunity. Each time I thought I’d found a balance between reality and hallucination, between sanity and traumatic reimagining, between fact and fractured memory, Christopher Greyson sent it all crashing to the ground. Add a bit of masterful suspense, churn in a dash of paranoia, and speed it all up to a breakneck pace… he had me right where he wanted me.
And then the fun screeched to a stop.
When I imagine Greyson writing this book, I can’t help but wonder if he was kidnapped just before he reached the last few chapters. His agent must have panicked and found an unqualified intern at the publishing house to resolve the plot in the weeks before the release date. But then this intern probably got overwhelmed with coffee orders and had to ask her ten-year-old sister to come up with the denouement instead. And then I presume the ten-year-old sister handed over the Epilogue to her hamster as a fun creative writing exercise.
In all seriousness, the conclusion to The Girl Who Lived feels rushed and – worse – completely fucking random. The “big twist” hit me like an elbow to the nose; I only saw it coming a second before the impact and then there was just… blood everywhere. It was messy and unoriginal. And then it happened again. And then, while I was coming to terms with the carnage, Greyson went all nineties-cartoon-trope on me and dropped a grand piano from the ceiling. Ah, I remember thinking as I watched the shadow grow larger at my feet. The resolution. This is going to hurt.
And it did hurt. It hurt a lot. Because not only was I deeply invested in Faith’s story at this stage, I was also beyond excited to see her disentangle all the threads of deceit and confusion and trauma to reveal an intricate conspiracy against her family. I was waiting for that incredible moment of release when the protagonist reveals her cunning trap and the killers realise they’re screwed. I was ready to pump a fist in the air as Faith proved to herself (and the police and her therapists and the murderers and everyone else that ever doubted her) that she wasn’t crazy, that she never had been, and that she was stronger than the demons lurking in her past.
I invested so much emotion in this book. And all I got was this lousy bloodied T-shirt.