I’ve picked up an unusual amount of crime fiction, lately, and I keep finding myself surprised at this development. The latest selection in this parade of mystery novels: The Good Girl, debut novel from author Mary Kubica.
The Good Girl tells the story of Mia Dennett, the youngest daughter of the affluent Judge Dennett and his somewhat disconnected wife, Eve. After a reckless encounter with a stranger in a bar, Mia goes home with the mystery man — Colin Thatcher — in anticipation of a one-night stand after she is stood up by her less-than-stellar boyfriend. Mia soon realizes this encounter is more than chance, though, as the man makes it clear they won’t be engaging in any sort of . . . extracurricular . . . activities. She is hauled to a cabin in the remote woods of northern Minnesota where the two weather the swiftly dropping temperatures of fall while each wonders what will become of the situation and themselves.
Meanwhile, back home, Eve frantically pursues her daughter’s case as her husband and eldest daughter (Grace) remain infuriatingly skeptical and distant. Eve’s only solace is Gabe, the relatively nondescript detective who’s been assigned to the case. As weeks slide by and little new information comes to light, Eve’s desperation grows, as well as her discontent.
The novel, like maaaaaany other recently published crime fiction works, is arranged into short chapters told from the perspectives of a few major characters: Eve, Gabe, and Colin. Although the story is about Mia, the author makes a wise choice in revealing the actual timeline of events through the perspectives of everyone but Mia.
The Good: The novel is a quick, easy read. There aren’t a lot of complicated storylines to follow, or characters to track, and the story itself is interesting enough that the short chapters and building tension make the novel a page-turner.
The Bad: Initially, the story’s timeline is a bit muddy. Some chapters are written from before a specific date, while others come after that date; though easy to keep track of later in the story, this arrangement is a bit irksome at the start. I also found Kubica’s character development to be a bit lacking. Gabe felt like a halfway constructed character who was supposed to have had revisions made . . . only to be forgotten prior to publication. He often comes across as a power-hungry, insecure, dopey investigator, and that’s just unfortunate. Additionally, one particular relationship in this novel is rather contrived, and nobody likes those kinds of relationships. Right?
The Verdict: 2.5/5 stars. Somewhat predictable and somewhat underdeveloped, this novel left me with a pretty in-the-middle reaction: it’s good, but definitely not great. Certainly a viable “palate-cleanser” for those reading slumps and lazy weekends when you’re not in the mood to dive into something with layers and complexity.