Title: Girl 4
Paperback Original: 345 pages
Publication Date: 12/05/2011
There’s a new American female detective on the block, and her name is January David. Or so I assumed when I first start reading the press release for Will Carver’s debut novel, Girl 4. But I quickly realised that I was mistaken. For January isn’t American [despite the very American name] and is in fact a man, not a woman!
I have to admit that January’s name did seem slightly too affected and purposefully different for my liking, but it was really my only gripe with a bloody, brutal and interestingly different serial killer novel. And, I actually felt that the novel had enough distinctive qualities that it didn’t need its central protagonist to have an unusual name. For, what really makes Girl 4 stand out is its use of multiple first-person narratives [January, the killer, and the killer’s victims] and the manner in which Carver has spliced up the plot so that it unfolds in a non-linear fashion.
So, the book begins with January arriving at a theatre where the fourth victim of a serial killer has been found. In a wonderfully macabre and over-the-top scene, the female victim has been suspended, naked, ten feet in the air in an inverted cross above the theatre’s stage. Blood is pouring from the woman’s body into a Perspex coffin below her – eugh! Except that the police soon realise that the woman is still alive – barely – and then January makes a shocking discovery … that the woman is his wife, Andrea [this isn’t really a spoiler as it occurs about 15 pages into the novel!].
But January’s subsequent search for a killer who has made this a personal game of cat-and-mouse is cleverly intercut with the narratives of the killer’s three previous victims, as well as Andrea’s narrative. This really adds an extra layer of suspense to the proceedings, as the reader already knows the fate that will befall these women, but is powerless to do anything to save them.
It did take me a little while to get used to Girl 4 ’s different style, but once acclimatised to it I found myself flying through the book. This thriller-ish pace is aided by Carver’s decision to avoid using too much in the way of police procedural elements, and there is a raw and fresh quality to the prose [which is undoubtedly due to the fact that this is Carver’s first book]. With a surname like his [if indeed it really is his real name!], Will Carver was destined to be a serial killer or a crime author. Thankfully he chose the latter [unless he has a dark secret that wasn’t included in the author biog!]. And Girl 4 ends on a satisfyingly intriguing note that will definitely have me returning to read DI January David’s next outing.