THE GIRL REMAINS by Katherine Firkin (Bantam, May 2021)
The discovery of human remains on an isolated Victorian beach gets Katherine Firkin’s second novel, The Girl Remains, off to a suitably gruesome and engaging start.
The bones belong to fifteen-year old Cecilia May who went missing over twenty years ago following a night out with her two girlfriends. A local registered sex offender confessed at the time to being involved in her disappearance, but was later alibied and released. Now that her bones have been discovered the police have their first real lead in decades and Detective Emmett Corban and his team descend on the small coastal town of Blairgowrie to investigate Cecilia’s murder.
Katherine Firkin made a solid entry into Australia’s crime fiction ranks with her 2020 debut Sticks and Bones, but The Girl Remains is a significant step up in quality. It is a more confident and better written novel, and this time around Katherine has improved the balance between the private lives of the detectives and the intrigues of the murder investigation. As a result, the story grabs attention from the opening pages and holds it all the way to the end.
The plot is well constructed and there are some good twists and turns as the story moves to an unexpected climax. I anticipated some of the developments, but a lot took me by surprise. I also thought that all the secondary characters were more fully developed this time and much more interesting, particularly the nerdish Detective Constable Lanh Nguyen. The dynamics between Emmett Corban and his team were credible and engaging, and the developing relationship between him and his colleague Bianca Tardio added interest. Corban’s wife, Cindy, also fits neater into this novel and provides a good alternative viewpoint at times and helps to move the story forward.
The mystery at the core of the novel propels the plot along at a steady pace and it certainly keeps you guessing as to what will happen next. The flow of the investigation is engaging and the tension around what really happened mounts steadily over the final chapters. There are some minor lapses in credibility, but not enough to detract from the enjoyment.
In all, I found The Girl Remains to be a very entertaining read and I keenly look forward to the next Emmett Corban investigation. Four to four and a half stars out of five!
The Girl Remains was released in Australia on 4 May 2021. It is available in the United States on Kindle. It does not appear to be currently available in the United Kingdom, but can be purchased through Australian booksellers. Thanks to Penguin Random House Australia and the Canberra Weekly for an advanced copy of the book.
Here is a link to my review of Katherine’s first novel Sticks and Stones: https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/sticks-and-stones-by-katherine-firkin-bantam-2-june-2020/