GIRL, 11 by Amy Suiter Clarke (Text, May 2021)
Melbourne resident Amy Suiter Clarke makes a confident entry into the crime writing arena with her first novel Girl, 11.
Set in Minneapolis, Girl, 11 joins other recent books, such as Megan Goldin’s Night Swim, in weaving the format and tension of a true crime podcast into a contemporary crime novel. The story follows podcaster Elle Castillo as she investigates a decades-old serial killer cold case. The Countdown Killer (TCK) terrorised Minneapolis over a four year period as he targeted increasingly younger women and girls, before abruptly stopping. Elle is not convinced that TCK is dead and when a listener promises her a lead to the killer’s identity she rushes to his apartment, only to find his murdered body. As new killings occur Elle is convinced that TCK is back, but the police are reluctant to believe her and she finds herself isolated as she tries to finally track the killer down before another young girl dies.
This is a gripping, well written and briskly paced thriller that quickly draws the reader in and keeps them engaged until the last page. Amy skillfully alternates the telling between Elle’s podcasts about the earlier murders and her current experiences while trying to unearth TCK’s identity. The use of the chatty, informative podcasts is a clever device that allows Amy to smoothly and quickly introduce background information into the story without the slowing pace. The staging of the podcasts also allows for the information to be released in a way that maximises the suspense and keeps the reader engaged and occasionally surprised.
The contemporary investigation into the killings linked to the podcast is also well handled, and Amy ramps up the tension as the book races to an exciting and bloody climax. Although some of the twists are guessable, the book certainly delivers a couple of good surprises. The characters are well crafted, and Amy keeps a clear focus on the killer’s victims and the effects of his actions, rather than reveling in his gruesome actions. As she makes clear several times in the narration and the podcast extracts:
“(the mission is) focusing on the victims of crime and bringing them justice….not (making) another podcast that glorified the lives and minds of serial killers.”
Overall, this is a very assured debut. There is the occasional lapse in credibility, and Elle becomes a bit annoying as a character as the book progresses, but it is easy to ignore these quibbles and continue reading.
Four stars out of five!
Girl, 11 is already available in the United States and will be released in Australia by Text Publishing on 4 May 2021. It was also released in the United Kingdom on 26 April 2021. The cover on the Text edition (above) is first rate and very atmospheric and makes a nice change from the current plethora of covers featuring girls walking away wearing red or yellow!
Thanks to Text Publishing and the Canberra Weekly for an early copy of the book.
Here is the link to an article I did last year on crime novels featuring true crime podcasts: https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/deadly-podcasts-the-suicide-house-by-charlie-donlea-the-night-swim-by-megan-goldin/