BOOK REVIEW: The Girls Next Door by Mel Sherratt

The Girls Next Door is the first in a new crime series by Mel Sherratt, author of Taunting The Dead, Somewhere to Hide and Follow the Leader. When it comes to crime novels I'm quite a new reader, but I was intrigued by the premise of The Girls Next Door when I saw it on Netgalley. The new series focuses on Detective Sergeant Eden Berrisford, working in the town of Stockleigh where, in this novel, she's investigating a series of attacks on young women.

When a teenage girl, Deanna Barker, is mistakenly murdered one night, local youngster Katie is arrested for the crime - even though she didn't commit it. With the upcoming murder trial, the residents of Stockleigh are waiting to hear the results. Including the Barkers, notorious on the Mitchell Estate for their intimidating ways. Deanna was killed that night, and it seems like the family are out for revenge. When three teenagers are brutally attacked, DS Eden Berrisford is called in to investigate.

However, the situation becomes worse when Jess, Eden's own niece, goes missing, leading Eden to search for the truth and locate her before it's too late. With the impending trial it's only a matter of time before whoever is holding her teenage niece attempts to get justice of their own.

The novel takes place over a weekend, and focuses on not just Eden, but the other families and teenagers too, such as Katie and her parents, and Eden's sister, Laura. And it soon becomes clear that it's not just the murder trial that's causing a problem for the Stockleigh teens.

Eden is a great character. She's brave, kind, family-focused and relatable.  She's hard working, determined to serve her community, and I was intrigued by how she tackled the situation when her work life and personal life collided in a huge way. I'm looking forward to more novels in the series, to see how this character develops more.

As for the other characters? I'm not so sure. Jess is extremely unlikeable, and I found it quite hard to warm to Laura, Jess's mother. I think this was due to the fact that there were quite a lot of characters in this novel, so they were not given that much depth. However, I enjoyed reading about the teenagers and their secrets, their actions around the trial, in a town that had already seen so much damage with Deanna's murder.

The only big problem I had with The Girls Next Door was Jess's lack of punishment for what she had done. (Of course, I'm not going to reveal it here, but her actions were not exactly angelic). It disappointed me. It's hard to discuss this without launching into a complete spoiler but if you have read the book, you probably know what I'm referring to.

The Girls Next Door is an intriguing read. It is not, however, a 'gripping, edge-of-your-seat' thriller as its cover promises. I did not find this book 'gripping', nor would I have classed it as a thriller. This isn't so much an issue with the book or the author, more with marketing, and it's not the first time I've seen such descriptions on books that turn out to be untrue.  This novel is paced well, has a great lead character, focuses on more realistic crimes and its 'twist' is not huge, or that shocking. And you know what?  I absolutely loved that about it. It didn't HAVE to be shocking. It was refreshing; there was no huge OTT plot twist just for the sake of it. To me, The Girls Next Door seemed to be more of a gritty crime drama than thriller, and I'd love to read more of these.

I definitely want to read more about DS Eden Berrisford. And I'm in luck, because Mel Sherratt's next novel in the series, Don't Look Behind You, is already available!

Rating: 4/5

Thank you to Netgalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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